Outgoing Finance Minister Asad Umar held a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday, less than an hour after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led (PTI) government announced his removal as finance minister.
He announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan offered him the portfolio of energy ministry but he turned down the offer and decided to quit the federal cabinet.
“I would like to reiterate that my decision to step down from the federal cabinet does not mean I do not support Imran Khan’s vision for Pakistan,” he said.
“The most difficult job after that of the PM is the finance minister’s. The ability to take difficult decisions and a lot of patience is required for this post. I request you all to support whoever comes in as my replacement.”
“The next finance minister will be taking up the responsibility in a difficult economic situation, particularly given the negotiations ongoing with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The implementation of the IMF programme would be a major challenge,” said Umar.
He also shot down reports of internal politics and manoeuvring in his removal. “I don’t know if there was any conspiracy [in my removal]. My captain told me to take a certain portfolio but I did not think it was appropriate, so I recused myself.”
The outgoing minister said announcements of more reshuffling in the federal cabinet were likely to be made on Friday. In response to another question, Umar shared an anecdote from the day he joined the PTI. “I told Imran Khan that day that I was joining PTI for Pakistan and no one else. I told him that there was nothing that he or PTI could offer me; I came aboard to work for Pakistan.”
He also expressed gratitude to the supporters of PTI, particularly mentioning the party’s social media team and volunteers.
Born in 1961 in Rawalpindi, Umar is the son of Major General Ghulam Umar who was a close associate of former military dictator General Yahya Khan.
Umar graduated from the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi and entered politics after a successful corporate career that saw him become chief executive officer of Engro Corporation at the age of just 43.
His 27-year career at Engro began in 1985, when the company was still a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, the global oil giant. He joined the company as a business analyst, and was working for it abroad in Canada when the famous management buyout of Engro took place in 1991.
He was awarded the Sitara-i-Imtiaz by the government of Pakistan in 2010 for his public service and engagement in promoting the cause of Pakistan.