- Finance Minister Asad Umar, FBR chairman, SBP governor expected to be sent packing
- Energy minister Omar Ayyub likely to head finance ministry
- Finance minister says ‘PM trusts me’; info, revenue ministers say PM confident of FM’s capabilities
ISLAMABAD: Amid clarifications and rebuttals from the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the rumoured removal of Finance Minister Asad Umar, Prime Minister Imran Khan is mulling a proposal to replace his entire economic team and send Asad, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Tariq Bajwa and Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Dr Jahanzeb Khan packing, Pakistan Today has learnt.
According to sources, the premier has been “upset” with the handling of the Finance Ministry’s affairs and Asad Umar is likely to be replaced by Minister for Energy Omar Ayyub Khan.
“The replacement may be delayed for a week or two to help stabilise the stock exchange index, but it is inevitable. Not only is Asad going, but the entire financial team is,” they said and added that the head of a state institution has also conveyed concerns about the mishandling of the country’s financial affairs.
“Asad will remain a member of the premier’s cabinet and might be handed the reins of the Energy or Planning & Development Ministry instead,” sources claimed.
‘BUSINESSMEN UNHAPPY WITH ASAD’:
Speaking of the factors that led to Asad’s proposed removal, sources said that other than the rupee devaluation fiasco, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) former secretary general Jehangir Khan Tareen had conveyed Imran Khan the grievances of the business community towards the finance minister.
Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar recently visited Karachi to attend the IDEAS Expo where he met different stockbrokers, they said. “During the meeting, the business community of Karachi complained about Asad’s behaviour, who, the traders claimed, was reluctant to even meet them.”
“Governor Sarwar, upon his return, conveyed the woes of the port city’s business community to Tareen, who informed the prime minister about the same,” sources said, adding that this too infuriated Khan, who directed Asad to immediately meet a delegation of Karachi’s businessmen.
“The finance minister then held an urgent meeting with a delegation of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) on Tuesday.”
SBP GOVERNOR TO ‘RESIGN’:
Another source in the Finance Ministry claimed that the PM has also made up his mind to remove SBP Governor Tariq Bajwa and replace him with Dr Shamshad Akhtar.”
However, they added, that since the post of SBP governor is a constitutional one, Tariq Bajwa has “secretly” been asked to tender his resignation.
“If Bajwa doesn’t follow the orders, the government would have no other choice but to seek his removal through the SBP Board,” sources further claimed.
Dr Akhtar, from the past few days, has been attending the meetings of the Finance Ministry and the FBR, so as she is preparing herself for the new challenges, they added.
“Prime Minister has also decided to remove FBR Chairman Dr Jahanzeb Khan. A former officer of Inland Revenue Services (IRS) Shahid Hussain Asad, who enjoys a good repute for his integrity and competence in tax-related issues, is likely to be appointed instead.”
‘NO KNOWLEDGE OF BEING REMOVED’:
Asad Umar, however, feigned ignorance of his potential removal. “Being the finance minister, I am still chairing meetings and just yesterday had one with Dr Shamshad Akhtar,” he said while speaking to media persons.
He said that PM Khan had “asked him to continue his job”.
‘PM CONFIDENT OF ASAD’S ABILITIES’:
Meanwhile, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar dispelled the impression that Asad Umar was resigning from his post.
“The aim of negative and baseless propaganda against the finance minister is to destabilise the recovering national economy,” the information minister said in a statement.
He added that the finance minister, through hard work and professionalism, played an important role in stabilising the national economy and Prime Minister Imran Khan had full confidence in Asad’s abilities.
“Investment, exports and home remittances are increasing, while imports in the country are declining. The day is not far when the process of positive change would be completed.”
Hammad Azhar said that neither was Asad going anywhere nor was the government’s drive to reform and undertake fundamental reforms going to diminish
“Vested interests that thrive on the status quo arrangement will resort to different tactics,” he tweeted, adding such elements should be simply ignored.
Jahangir Tareen, on the other hand, neither confirmed nor denied any reshuffling in the federal cabinet and said no one knows whose ministry is in danger. “This secret is only in the chest of PM Khan,” he said while speaking to a private media outlet.
Tareen also put down rumours regarding any rift with Asad and said that there was no meeting held between them recently.
It merits a mention here that the finance minister has been receiving severe backlash after the dollar became uncontrollable and rupee faced devaluation within the past few days.
Apart from economic experts and members of the opposition, the inner circle of the government is not satisfied with Asad Umar’s performance, reports had said Monday, following which rumours claimed that the minister “had or was about to resign” from office.
With additional reporting by Shahzad Paracha