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Pakistan's embattled Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has been relieved of his duties after the ailing politician, declared a proclaimed absconder by a court in the Panama Papers case, requested leave for three months, media reports said today. Dar, 67, had arrived in London nearly a month ago and has been seeking treatment at a Harley Street hospital. Dar sent a three-page letter to the Prime Minister's Office on Monday seeking leave of absence. In it, he narrated his health condition, saying that his surgeon had asked him to avoid international air travel. He said his medical tests in UK showed "diffuse coronary heart disease and possible ischemic heart disease", the Express Tribune reported. In his letter to Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Dar said that he wishes to seek "relief for now from looking after the three divisions" that he has been heading for nearly four years. The government issued two notifications yesterday after Prime Minister Abbasi approved Dar's leave application, Dawn reported. "The prime minister has been pleased to allow leave of absence to Ishaq Dar... with immediate effect," said one of the notifications issued by the Cabinet Secretariat. The second communique announced the decision to withdraw the portfolios of Finance and Economic Affairs Division from Dar. Prime Minister Abbasi will look after the finance minister's duties until a replacement is found. In his letter, Dar said that he had been running the affairs of the ministry via email, WhatsApp etc since October 27, and asked for leave without pay. Dar was indicted on September 27 in a corruption case linked to the Panama Papers case, but he continued to serve as finance minister amid strong criticism from Opposition parties. An accountability court had on November 14 issued non- bailable arrest warrants for the finance minister because of his repeated failure to appear before it.
On November 21, the accountability court declared him a 'proclaimed absconder'. Dar is accused of amassing assets of an approximate value of Rs 831.7 million disproportionate to his known sources of income. Dar had assumed the responsibilities of Minister for Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatisation in the Cabinet of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif in June 2013. He continued as Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs in the Cabinet of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi but the new premier separated Statistics and Privatisation from the Finance Ministry. Dar's son is married to a daughter of Sharif. The National Accountability Bureau had registered three cases of corruption and money laundering against Sharif, his family members, and Dar in the Islamabad Accountability Court, weeks after the Supreme Court order ousted Sharif. Meanwhile, Dawn also reported that Dar had advised the prime minister to constitute an advisory committee to look into economic issues in his absence. The likely members of the economic advisory committee suggested by Dar include Shaukat Tarin, who served as finance minister under the PPP government, and Dr Ishrat Husain, who was governor of the State Bank during the regime of Pervez Musharraf regime. Two other names being floated include Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Economic Affairs Miftah Ismail, and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Revenue Haroon Akhtar Khan. Talking to a private TV channel, Minister for Inter- Provincial Coordination Riaz Pirzada yesterday demanded resignation of Dar. Earlier, the Senate Standing Committee on Finance had also made a similar demand.
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