ISLAMABAD: With Nawaz Sharif, the ruling party president, all set to choose the successor of former finance minister Ishaq Dar by Saturday, Additional Finance Secretary Ghazanfar Abbasi Jilani has been relieved of the charge of acting finance secretary just a day after his nomination.
The decision over Jilani indicates that other officials appointed by the former finance minister at key positions may as well be replaced.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi relieved Dar of all official responsibilities, while accepting his request for ‘leave of absence’ on ‘medical’ grounds.
Dar will be replaced by a state minister for finance, and MNA Rana Afzal Khan, who is also the parliamentary secretary for finance, is among the frontrunners for the post, according to sources.
The PM was likely to retain the portfolio of finance, revenue and economic affairs, said the sources, adding that a proposal to set up an economic advisory council, comprising prominent people, was also on the cards.
Before appointing a successor to Dar, the PM Office will appoint an acting finance secretary of its choice until Secretary Finance Shahid Mahmood returns to Pakistan. Mahmood left for Dubai on Tuesday along with other officials to launch sovereign bonds, aimed at raising between $2 and $3 billion from international debt markets.
The PM’s special assistant on economic affairs is leading the Pakistani delegation that will hold road shows in the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.
On November 21, the Ministry of Finance had issued an office order, stating: “During the official visit abroad of Shahid Mahmood, Ghazanfar Abbas Jilani, the additional secretary finance, will look after the day to day work of the office of Finance Secretary.”
Mahmmod had handed over the Ministry of Finance to Jilani during his absence from Pakistan with the approval of former finance minister Ishaq Dar, said the sources.
Giving the acting charge to the senior most additional secretary was routinely done without the involvement of the Establishment Division.
However, the federal government has now allotted the additional charge of Finance Secretary to Arif Ahmad Khan, the Secretary of the Economic Affairs Division. Arif Khan was appointed Secretary EAD in September this year.
Effectively, there were three secretaries of finance in a span of 24 hours.
On Thursday, Arif Khan attended the meeting of National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance in his new capacity. MNA Rana Afzal Khan, the Parliamentary Secretary Finance, introduced Arif Khan to the committee meeting.
The abrupt change led to speculations that the Prime Minister also wants to change key bureaucrats appointed by Dar. Mahmood is scheduled to retire in January next year. The sources, however, say that the top government hierarchy wanted to change the finance secretary. No final decision has yet been taken. Mahmood served with Dar for nearly four years.
According to the sources, the PM Office was also contemplating replacing Tariq Pasha, the Chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). Pasha was a confidant of the former finance minister.
Major changes in top FBR hierarchy are also expected next month, said the sources, adding that the PM Office would take a decision after reviewing a report on the status of officers serving on key positions despite “embarrassingly compromised reputations”.
Pasha has also been directed to submit a report about such officers by November 28.