Govt institutions evaluate possibilities to bring looted money from abroad

ISLAMABAD: As the finance minister-in-waiting Asad Umar has announced to establish a task force for bringing back looted money from abroad, the ministry of finance and other related institutions have reportedly started evaluating options for the same move.
Asad Umar, being a member of National Assembly in the previous government, had tried his best to force concerned authorities to step up and bring back the money especially from Dubai and Switzerland where former finance minister Ishaq Dar had claimed $200 billion were kept in banks by Pakistanis.
However, he could not force the institutions to make a visible development on this issue despite highlighting the same in the parliament and standing committees. During the last meetings of the parliamentary committee on finance, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had admitted having records of over a 100 people making assets in Dubai and subsequently the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had claimed that it has the authority and legal tools to take up the issue with other countries and investigate the same.
The concerned institutions, as per Asad Umar, have been reluctant in taking action against those Pakistanis making illegal assets abroad through sending money without the legal banking channel.
Though the formal constitution of the task force may happen soon after the formation of the new government, the concerned departments have reportedly started their homework regarding the repatriation of billions of dollars owned by Pakistanis stashed in foreign bank accounts.
As per Asad Umar, the proposed task force will be comprised of all the stakeholders after the formation of the government with the mandate to recommend ways and means for returning the looted money. The task force will have specific Terms of Reference (ToRs) and will finalise its report in the light of ToRs.
He said the former minister for finance Ishaq Dar had given estimates of $200 billion owned by Pakistanis lying abroad on the floor of the House in 2014. Later on, he said the former  FBR chairman Tariq Bajwa had also referred to these estimates in one of the official summaries. He said that he does not have exact figures on this account but this upcoming task force to be constituted under the PTI regime would scrutinise all the details and would recommend ways and means to repatriate the stashed amount running into billions of dollars.
Similarly, it was also estimated that Pakistanis have made investments worth $8 billion in Dubai. FBR had informed a parliamentary committee that Pakistanis invested a whopping $8 billion in Dubai’s property market in the last four years, admitting that it, however, has so far failed to determine names of the people who invested their money in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
However, a renowned economist, while talking to Pakistan Today, claimed that any immediate development on returning the looted money, as claimed by Asad Umar, was not possible since the process would be based on the bilateral agreements with the foreign countries concerned.
The case related to Swiss banks has almost shelved for being time-barred. “Will the Dubai’s Sheikh share information about properties of former president General (r) Parvez Musharraf? Has ever Pakistan been able to ask the United Kingdom about the properties and assets of Altaf Hussain? It will indeed be a difficult task for the new government,” he said.
An official source at the finance ministry said that the ministry will work on the proposed task force once it receives directives from the new government.
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Ghulam Abbas
The writer is a member of the staff at the Islamabad Bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]
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