Pakistan Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has been accused of slapping a journalist who questioned him about the delay in securing a loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The incident took place on Thursday at the Parliament House, where Dar had just delivered a speech.
Shahid Qureshi, an economic reporter working for a private TV channel, approached the minister with his questions as he was leaving with his security guards. Qureshi asked Dar about the progress of the stalled IMF program and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s recent meeting with the IMF chief.
However, Dar remained silent and then snapped at the journalist, saying “Because people like you are in the system.” He then tried to snatch Qureshi’s mobile phone and instructed his security personnel to seize and throw it away. Qureshi claimed that Dar’s guards also grabbed and slapped him.
A video of the altercation has gone viral on social media, sparking outrage and condemnation from the journalistic community. The Parliamentary Reporters Association (PRA) issued a statement demanding an apology from Dar and calling on the National Assembly Speaker to take notice of the incident. They also threatened to walk out of the budget session and stage a protest if Dar fails to apologize.
Qureshi also released another video in which he provided a detailed account of the incident and appealed to international journalistic bodies to act against Dar’s violence and disrespect. He said that reporters were not part of the system but merely asked questions.
Dar’s frustration appears to stem from the government’s failure to secure the bailout package, as the IMF has yet to revive the expiring program, scheduled to conclude by the end of this month. Pakistan has barely enough currency reserves to cover one month’s imports and has been seeking $1.1 billion from the IMF.