Abbasi pushes Ishaq Dar’s man out of the frame

  • Former finance minister was biggest supporter of Rana Afzal and had scuttled Miftah Ismail’s appointment to finance ministry
  • State Minister for Finance Rana Afzal says he agreed to let Miftah present budget on PM’s request

ISLAMABAD: The hurriedly carried out installation of PM’s Adviser on Finance and Revenue Miftah Ismail as the federal minister for finance, hours before the budget session on Friday, by sidelining State Minister for Finance Raza Afzal has revealed the tug-of-war within the ruling party over prestigious government offices.

A source in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) told Pakistan Today that the decision to appoint Miftah as finance minister and the delivery of the budget speech by him has served a blow to Senator Ishaq Dar, who had backed Rana Afzal as finance minister while Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi wanted Miftah in that office.

“Prime Minister Abbasi and his team have been under severe criticism from Ishaq Dar, who has on several occasions strongly criticised the finance team under Abbasi, terming their handling of affairs as ‘treachery’,” the source said, referring to Dar’s criticism earlier over the devaluation of rupee.

It merits mention here that Ishaq Dar, on April 23, released a statement from his London office, terming the devaluation of the Pakistani rupee over the past few months as “cruel and unnecessary” decision that was “deliberately taken to adversely impact the government’s progress”.

The source said that the battle over the delivery of the budget speech in the National Assembly has continued for the past several weeks as State Minister for Finance Rana Afzal had been trying to convince the prime minister to allow him to deliver the speech.

“When his request was not heeded by PM Abbasi, Rana Afzal boycotted the National Economic Council meeting chaired by the prime minister himself,” the source added.

Rana Afzal, however, ruled out any controversy over the budget speech saying that Miftah Ismail delivered it with his consent.

Talking to Pakistan Today, he said that the decision to allow Miftah to deliver the budget speech was made with his [Afzal’s] consent after PM Abbasi informed him that Miftah had made a special request to him regarding the matter.”

“There is nothing wrong in allowing the newly appointed federal finance minister to make the speech. Though Miftah, I and Haroon Akhtar had been working together on the budget document, but since the prime minister made the request, I have no hard feelings,” he said.

Rana Afzal said that initially there was no plan to elevate Miftah as the finance minister. The Law Division, however, informed that if Miftah wants to deliver the budget speech, he needs to take oath as finance minister, leading to his urgent elevation to the higher rank.

The source also informed that Rana Afzal had in the past tabled a privilege motion against Punjab Food Authority (PFA) Director General Noorul Amin Mengal, claiming that Mengal – who then was serving as Faisalabad DCO back in 2014 – levelled ‘baseless’ allegations against Rana Afzal about a matter involving property.

“Rana Afzal had also claimed that Mengal was backed by Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, and hence was targeting him,” the source said and added that the privilege motion was disposed of by Privilege Committee Chairman Rana Qasim Noon without any action against Noorul Amin Mengal after around two-and-a-half years.

“This also triggered a verbal spat between Rana Afzal and Rana Qasim during the meeting and both had exchanged abuses and threats as the committee chairman directed the staff to throw Rana Afzal out of the committee room,” the source added.