ISLAMABAD: When the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) was receiving a massive battering, Finance Minister Asad Umar was unaware of the head of the chief equity market regulator - the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).
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Umar was of the view that he had removed SECP chairman Shaukat Hussain 10 days ago. In his place, according to the minister, Tahir Mehmood was appointed as the acting chairman. The minister revealed this in a talk show aired on ARY News on Wednesday. Umar was surprised when programme host Arshad Sharif told him that Hussain had attended the office on Wednesday as the SECP chief. This triggered a chain of events that led to the removal of Hussain by the federal cabinet on Thursday.
The cabinet accepted the resignation of Hussain as chairman of the SECP, according to government officials. The government handed the acting charge to Mehmood, the senior most commissioner in the SECP. However, no notification was issued till the end of office hours.
Two weeks ago, the federal cabinet removed four heads of commercial banks, three members of the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) including its chairperson and two deputy governors of the State Bank of Pakistan. All these officials were removed on the grounds that they had been appointed by former finance minister Ishaq Dar without having the legal mandate. SECP ex-chairman Hussain was not among these people.
The cabinet on Thursday also gave the acting charge of CCP chairperson to Vidya Khalil, who had been removed by the same cabinet just two weeks ago on the grounds that she was appointed by Dar. It was unclear whether the finance minister had ordered the removal of Hussain. Finance secretary and spokesperson of the finance ministry were not available for comments.
All this was happening when the PSX was falling sharply almost every day. During these days, the KSE-100 index lost 4,000 points, about 17% of the market value. After the ARY talk show, the finance secretary called Hussain at midnight, telling him to come to his office in the morning, sources told The Express Tribune. Hussain met both the finance secretary and the finance minister on Thursday.
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“Umar told Hussain that he was in favour of retaining him but Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted the removal of all the heads of the organisations that had been appointed by the last government,” the sources added. About a month ago, Hussain had himself offered Umar his resignation instead of being removed unceremoniously. At that time, he was asked to continue.
Umar was not available for comments. “I am not keen enough to head the organisation without the confidence of the government,” said Hussain. He said he would relinquish the charge the moment he received notification from the finance ministry.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2018.
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