FM Asad steps down as finance minister, leaves Imran’s cabinet

ISLAMABAD: Asad Umar stepped down as the finance minister of Pakistan ahead of a federal cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Umar took to Twitter to announce that he had decided to leave the federal cabinet after being told by Prime Minister Imran Khan to take the energy minister portfolio instead of finance as part of a cabinet reshuffle. 

“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,” Umar tweeted. 

Following his tweet, Umar addressed a news conference in which he stressed his support for Prime Minister Imran Khan despite stepping down as finance minister. 

“This does not mean that I am not available to support PM’s vision on naya Pakistan,” Umar said.

According to Umar, tough decisions were taken to overcome the economic crisis in the country and his replacement would be taking over a difficult job.

“This is the most difficult job after the prime minister. There is no doubt that we are moving towards prosperity but tough decisions need to be taken,” he added.  

On April 15, it was reported that a major reshuffle was on the cards in the federal cabinet. Official had informed media that a reshuffle was expected in the Ministry of Finance after talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded.

The reports of the reshuffle were denied by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry. “There is no truth in reports regarding changes in posts of federal ministers. The prime minister has the power to change ministers and the media should play a responsible role on this subject,” Chaudhry tweeted.

“Pakistan is going through an important phase and such speculations create confusion which is not beneficial for the country,” he added. 

Umar’s announcement comes after he revealed earlier this week that Pakistan would sign a bailout agreement with the IMF worth $6-8 billion.

He told a National Assembly standing committee that Pakistan would receive funds from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank immediately following the IMF bailout. 

After Umar’s tweet announcing his decision to leave the cabinet, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari congratulated the nation. 

Bilawal was critical of the PTI government’s economic policies stating they lacked direction and failed to make any attempts at consensus building. “Since this government has come, the people of Pakistan have drowned in a tsunami of inflation,” Bilawal said. 

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzebasked if Umar’s policies were so good and the problems were from the PML-N government, why was he asked to step down.

“This is an admission by IK that his policies have created an economic crisis in Pakistan. The real problem is not Asad. It is the PM,” Aurangzeb tweeted. 

With Umar no longer in charge of the finance ministry, who will replace him remains unanswered. According to reports, former finance minister Shaukat Tarin had been offered to become the finance adviser but refused. Tarin had served as the finance minister in the PPP-led government of Yousaf Raza Gillani from 2009 to 2010.

Other prominent names which have surfaced for the position of finance adviser include former caretaker finance minister Salman Shah, former finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, former State Bank of Pakistan governor Ishrat Hussain and economist Hafeez Pasha.