'IMF had Asad removed; Reza delivered the message'

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) senior leader Syed Khursheed Shah said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led (PTI) government had removed Asad Umar as finance minister on the insistence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In a video statement, the former opposition leader in the National Assembly claimed that Reza Baqir, the IMF economist who was appointed as governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Saturday, was used as a middleman to convey the international lender’s reservations over Umar’s performance.

“According to my information, Reza Baqir – since he was with the IMF in Egypt – was used in the move to sack Umar. Through him [Baqir] messages were conveyed that the IMF was not happy with Umar,” said Shah.

“IMF representatives thought he [Umar] was ill-prepared at times or simply did not know enough, and there would be no breakthrough in negotiations if he was not removed,” he added.

Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that former finance minister Asad Umar is a “precious asset” of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and will soon rejoin his cabinet.

The premier, in a meeting with senior journalists, also indicated that the cabinet would see another reshuffle in the days to come and “only those who perform will remain while the rest will be sent packing.”

It is pertinent to mention here that Umar was relieved of his duties as part of a massive cabinet reshuffle last month. He was offered the energy portfolio but he had refused, fuelling speculation that he may have been upset at the development — a notion he denies vehemently.

On the new SBP and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) appointments, the PPP leader said it was the prerogative of the new finance minister, Hafeez Shaikh, to put together his own team. “However, it seems the government is bent on placing more economic burden on the masses. Instead of widening the tax base and increasing revenue collection, the PTI-led government wants to use the poor to fill up the country’s coffers,” said Shah.

Shah also spoke about army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor’s recent comments regarding the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) and its leadership.

“It is appreciable that General Qamar himself spoke about the issue. However, I say that we should allow questions to be raised, no matter which institution or topic they relate to,” he said. “Today, there is still time to resolve these issues through dialogue; soon it will be too late for talks and dialogue, as we saw what happened in East Pakistan.”