WASHINGTON - Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told a gathering here that the marches and sit-ins led by the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehrik have failed to destabilise the government, but have caused damage to the country's progress in some areas.

In his denunciation of the tactics employed by the PTI and PAT, he said that Dr Tahirul Qadri, whom he called a Canada-based clerk, was dreaming of becoming Imam Khomeini, the late Iranian revolutionary leader.

Speaking at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, Dar said that the demonstrations in Islamabad have failed to attract large crowds. Yet these rallies continue amid media coverage.

The minister told his audience that there were fewer people in mornings, but the numbers increases in the evenings, attracted by PTI-sponsored concerts. He said Imran Khan’s party has just about 10 percent of representation in the Parliament.

The discussion at the university was moderated by scholar and dean Vali Nasr, and attended by academics and students. Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Jalil Abbas Jilani and Finance Secretary Dr Waqar Masood Khan were also present.

Speaking of the losses caused by the demonstrations, Dar said inflows of around $ 2.6 billion including the 550 million IMF tranche, which would have been released immediately more than a month ago, have been delayed.

The flash floods have damaged some crops, he said.

As for four percent depreciation in the value of Rupee, he said, it would be a drain to the tune of around Rs250 billion.

Senator Dar said the since its inception, the PML-N’s democratically elected government has embarked upon a bold reform agenda, which has resulted in a remarkable turnaround in almost all macro-economic indicators.

Contrastingly with the dismal GDP growth in the five pre-2013 years, Islamabad has been able to chalk up a growth rate upwards of 4 percent, is targeting 5 percent expansion this year and aims at taking the growth rate to 7 percent in a few years.

Senator Dar said seeing the government's commitment to economic reform and growth, the international financial institutions including the World Bank and the IMF have reposed confidence in Pakistan’s economic prospects and Moody’s changed the outlook form negative to positive.

These developments have helped spur economic activity, but the sit-ins have hampered progress.

In the regional perspective, he said the countries around Pakistan, which account for half of the world’s population would greatly benefit from an economically strong and democratic Pakistan because that way the country would be able to defeat extremism and serve as an engine of growth for region due to its key geo-strategic location.

He expressed the hope that tensions with India along the Line of Control would be resolved soon and also reiterated that Pakistan wanted close economic and trade ties with Afghanistan. Senator Dar also held out a categorical assurance that Pakistan’s nuclear assets are safe and secure.