Abrupt changes in Imran Khan’s team

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  • PTI’s Byzantine politics

 

Former Finance Minister Asad Umar had returned to Pakistan from New York in a triumphant mood, claiming that he had clinched a deal with the IMF which had been finalised, documented and signed. He seemed to be comfortably settled in his seat. Within a couple of the days the man supposed to be closest to the PM was told on the phone to hand over his finance portfolio. No reasons were given for taking back the portfolio of petroleum from a reluctant Ghulam Sarwar or for demoting Sheharyar Afridi to a department that had been devolved to KP. No reasons were given for taking ministerial slots from Aamir Mehud Kiyani and Ali Amin Gandapur. Not assigning any reason to the dismissals, demotions or change of portfolios, strengthens the perception that the PTI is trying to hide something ugly from the public to avoid embarrassment.

At a time when the country faces a financial crisis, the IMF mission is about to arrive while the FATF is to give its crucial ruling, the government has sent home the Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan and the Chairman of the FBR, again without ascribing any reason. What explains their sudden removal?

Was the State Bank’s candid quarterly report in January 2019 a cause behind the Governor’s removal? The report had noted that the 6.2 percent target for real GDP growth was unachievable because of bad crops, lower water availability and costly fertilizer. Further, that large scale manufacturing had contracted by 1.7 percent. Was the government unhappy with the Governor for directing the banks to supply the information about PTI’s banking activities to ECP when demanded? This had led to the embarrassing revelation that the PTI was operating at least 18 undeclared bank accounts across the country that fall in the category of fake or illegal bank accounts as these have not been declared in PTI’s annual audit reports submitted to the ECP as required under the law. The FBR Chairman was given the task of doubling the tax revenue to Rs8 trillion. But how could he achieve the target if the government was unwilling to tax a large section of tax dodgers due to political exigencies?