ISLAMABAD - Finance Minister Ishaq Dar yesterday delivered an hour-long speech on the success of economic policies of the government but failed to impress sceptical opposition senators who demanded record to analyse the figures verbally cited by him.

In his speech in Senate, Dar said that the overall economic indicators of the country were positive. He talked about almost all indicators of the economy and claimed that a turnaround in the economy had taken place due to his government’s efforts.

He also tried to dispel the impression that country foreign debt has increased up to $100 billion. “Pakistan’s external debt increased by $5.23 billion during the last 30 months of this government. But we have returned $4.4 billion loans of previous governments to IMF.”

He said that there was a difference between the public debt and the total debt, adding that some ‘so-called economic experts’ were mixing both in their analysis. “Country’s public debt is $53.4 billion and its total debt is $68.5 billion,” he said and added that the talks about $100 billion loan were totally wrong.

The opposition benches however largely remained unimpressed by the ‘rosy picture’ of economy painted by the minister and said they should be provided figures as mentioned by him so that they could check the veracity of his statements.

PTI lawmaker Noman Wazir termed Dar’s speech “window dressing” as he said he would not use the word figure fudging. The lawmakers from Balochistan said that despite all the achievements claimed by the minister, there was no trickledown effect on the poor and their province as well.

Senator Minister Ishaq Dar in his speech also said that Pakistan will not roll back its nuclear programme come what may. His statement came on the heels of the statement of US Secretary of State John Kerry that Pakistan should consider cutting down its nuclear arsenal. A statement he gave during the opening remarks of sixth round of US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue being held in Washington these days.

Dar in his policy statement about the country’s economic conditions gave reference to an article published in the Wall Street Journal in 2008 with the headline “Let’s Buy Pakistan’s Nukes”. In the article, Western donors were asked to give $100 billion economic package to Pakistan in exchange of eliminating its nuclear assets.

“We have not made this country a nuclear state to roll back its nuclear programme and we will not do this” even if Pakistan’s loan increases up to $100 trillion, he said, adding that all the political parties of the country share its ownership. “This is a programme for our security and it’s is our national responsibility to protect it,” he added.

During yesterday’s proceedings, Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani asked the Adviser to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz to brief the house over his recent statement published in the media that Pakistan had considerable influence over Afghan Taliban because their leaders lived here. The adviser was also asked to brief on other issues of foreign policy.

Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan read out the statement of the adviser given in the US. He also mentioned the statement of Indian defence minister given in the Upper House of Indian parliament that the attackers of Pathankot airbase had the support of state of Pakistan.

“On one hand, we say that we had no link with those non-state actors who attacked Patahkot airbase while crossing the border on eastern side but on the other side we say that these are living without our will on the western border,” he said, adding that there was a clear contradiction between these two stances. However, Leader of the House said that statement of the adviser did not match the settled position of Pakistan and he should give explanation in the house after his return from the US.

Meanwhile, the house unanimously passed a resolution paying tributes to Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy for winning second Oscar for Pakistan and also to those brave Pakistani women who had been struggling for the rights of women and to end honour killing in the country. MQM Senator Nasreen Jalil moved the resolution.