–Asad Umar resigns after being removed as finance minister, PM Imran appoints Hafeez Sheikh as adviser on finance
–Fawad Chaudhry loses info ministry, Brig (r) Ijaz Shah replaces Shehryar Afridi as interior minister
–Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan made PM’s special assistant on media affairs, Ghulam Sarwar Khan manages to bag Aviation Ministry
ISLAMABAD: Hours after removing Finance Minister Asad Umar from his cabinet, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday fired several ministers, including Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, for showing unsatisfactory performance in their respective domains.
According to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office late on Thursday, Abdul Hafeez Pasha will take charge of the Finance Ministry as PM’s adviser, replacing Asad Umar who left the cabinet after the PM offered him the portfolio of Energy Ministry.
Firdous Ashiq Awan has been appointed as PM’s special assistant on media affairs while former information minister Fawad Chaudhry will now head Science and Technology Ministry.
Brigadier (r) Ijaz Shah, the newly inducted parliamentary affairs, will take over the Interior Ministry as a federal minister, replacing Shehryar Afridi, who will now head Safron [State and Frontier Region] Ministry as a state minister.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Azam Swati, who resigned last year, has been appointed as minister for parliamentary affairs.
Mohammadmian Soomro, the federal minister for privatisation, shall cease to hold the additional portfolio of the aviation division. Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who reportedly refused to leave the cabinet after being sacked from the post, has been given Aviation Division. Nadeem Babar has replaced Sarwar as the PM’s adviser on petroleum.
Health Minister Amir Mehmood Kiyani has been let go off and Zafarullah will take charge of his ministry as PM’s special adviser.
ASAD UMAR SENT PACKING:
It all started with Asad Umar, who announced his resignation in the afternoon, followed by dismissal of some ministers and re-allocation of portfolios of others.
The ministers’ sacking was foretold by media a few days ago, but the government ‘categorically’ rejected the reports, with Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) slapping notices on two TV channels for running the ‘fake news’.
The minister shared the news of his resignation on his twitter handle followed by a press conference in Islamabad.
He tweeted, “As part of a cabinet reshuffle PM desired that I take the energy minister portfolio instead of finance. However, I have obtained his consent to not take any cabinet position. I strongly believe @ImranKhanPTI is the best hope for Pakistan and inshallah will make a naya Pakistan.”
Addressing a press conference later in the day, the PTI leader explained that despite leaving the ministry he was “available to support PM’s vision on naya Pakistan”.
Giving the background of his announcement, Umar said he had met the prime minister last night when he was informed that he would be given a new portfolio — Energy Ministry. “However, I have obtained his consent [Thursday morning] not to take any cabinet position,” the minister told the reporters.
He said the economy was moving towards “prosperity, but tough decisions were needed to be taken” to overcome the economic crisis in the country and his replacement would be taking over a tough job.
“I believe that this decision [appointment of finance minister] should be made as soon as possible […] we are about to go to the IMF (International Monetary Fund), we are about to present the budget. This is already too late, the next person should have come in earlier, at least a month ago,” he stressed.
“This is the most difficult job after the prime minister,” Umar said, warning if “these decisions were rushed, the country would once again face economic upheaval”.
The minister said he has no knowledge of whether there was a conspiracy to remove him.
“The truth is I don’t know if there is any conspiracy, my ‘captain’ said I want to see you in this role and I did not think it was appropriate,” he said, explaining his decision to resign.
It may be mentioned here the government, particularly the finance minister, was under fire by the opposition and other quarters for poor economic indicators. The minister defended his policies in the presser, saying, “It is the time to take difficult decisions; I have made these decisions, I refused to take the decisions that would have crushed the nation.”
Asad Umar has just returned from the United States, where he had held talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials for a bailout package. An IMF mission is also expected to visit Islamabad before the end of the month.
Following PTI’s victory in 2018, Umar was sworn in as the Federal Minister for Finance, Revenue, and Economic Affairs in August.
During his stint as the finance minister, Umar had ruffled many a feather with his economic policies.
In December, businessmen complained to Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar about his policies, who then relayed these complaints to Imran’s close aide Jahangir Tareen to tell them to the prime minister. “This infuriated Imran Khan, who then directed Umar to immediately meet a delegation of Karachi’s businessmen.”
At the time, a Finance Ministry official had commented: “It seems as if Asad Umar is behaving like a bull in a china shop. His lack of experience and flawed handling of the economy is costing Pakistan heavily.”
On April 15, Pakistan Today reported that the premier is not impressed with the performance of around half a dozen cabinet ministers, including Finance Minister Asad Umar and State Minister for Interior Shehryar Afridi and wants to reshuffle their portfolios.
This was refuted by the information minister, who said the prime minister had no plan to remove his finance minister.