ISLAMABAD: Stepping down from his post as finance minister, Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI)’s staunch supporter Asad Umar expressed his resolve to continue forwarding his party’s vision for ‘Naya Pakistan’ (new Pakistan) under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan and maintained that he will always be available to advance the interests of the country.
The biggest criticism against Umar was that he delayed a decision on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and prematurely made decisions about currency devaluation and interest rate hikes, which stifled economic growth.
Umar announced his resignation during a press conference, soon after taking to twitter. In his tweet, he observed that Prime Minister Imran Khan intended to make some changes in the federal cabinet and that he had obtained the premier’s consent “to not take any cabinet position”.
“As part of a cabinet reshuffle, [the] prime minister desired that I take the energy minister portfolio instead of finance,” he said. “However, I have obtained his consent to not take any cabinet position.”
Expressing his confidence in the premier, he said, “I strongly believe @ImranKhanPTI is the best hope for Pakistan and inshAllah will make a naya Pakistan.”
Umar made it clear that his resignation does not mean his loyalties with the PTI have come to an end.
“This does not mean that I am not available to forward PTI’s vision for ‘Naya Pakistan’. I am and will always be available to forward the interests of this country.”
Umar noted that when PTI came into power, the economy of the country was in a fragile state. He claimed that the first eight months of PTI were far better than the corresponding periods of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) governments. He reiterated that the new finance minister will have to take tough decisions in order to put the economy on track.
“I need to say that when we came in, the economy was in a dangerous and sorry state, we were standing near a ditch, one move and we would have been in the ditch. The state of the economy is still not great [and] the next finance minister that comes in will still have a hard time.”
Umar will be replaced by a non-elected person, who will be appointed as Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs.
His ouster will also trigger other changes at important economic positions including Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Chairman Federal Board of Revenue and secretaries of economic ministries. But the government cannot remove the Governor SBP, until he himself chooses to resign.
The PTI stalwart has been shown the door just a week before a visit of IMF to Pakistan to finalize the bailout package is scheduled. The next fiscal year’s budget is also due on May 24 and the country is in the midst of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) review, also starting next month.
In order to convince Umar to stay on in the Cabinet, PM Khan had offered the outgoing finance minister to retain the chairmanship of Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet. But Umar declined to accept the offer.
“I was told by the PM that the economy was passing through a difficult time and the opposition was making it an excuse, therefore, the premier decided to change my portfolio,” Umar said while responding to a question on reasons for his removal.
Asked whether there had been a conspiracy in the government to remove him, Umar did not give a definite answer.
“I came into politics so that I could do something for the betterment of the country. I don’t know if there has been a conspiracy or not [to remove me] but all I know is that my ‘captain’ wanted to see me in the role of the energy minister. I did not think that would be a great idea so I refused.
He said that the next budget will be reflective of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme and the new finance minister would have to work on the budget.
“The new person that comes in may have a different approach, but they will have to work on the same five-six points to improve the economy,” he said.
“There are three main deficits that need to be fixed in order to fix the economy,” he added.
Umar said that protecting the interests of the banking sector and capital market was not his responsibility.