The government on Thursday transferred finance secretary Dr Kamran Afzal just two weeks before presentation of the next budget due to differences over administrative matters.
In his place, the government has appointed Yusuf Khan - a grade-21 officer, as the new Finance Secretary. Khan is the fifth finance secretary during the tenure of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government and had been promoted to grade 21 a month ago.
Yusuf Khan does not meet the criteria of serving in grade 21 for a minimum of two years before promotion to grade 22, sources told The Express Tribune.
Yusuf Khan is transferred and posted as additional secretary (in charge) Finance Division with immediate effect, according to a notification released by the Establishment Division.
Dr Waqar Masood Khan, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue, played a role in posting Yusuf Khan as Finance Secretary, said the sources. Yusuf Khan is brother-in-law of the chief justice of Islamabad High Court.
Dr Kamran Afzal served as finance secretary for just five months. Yusuf Khan, who was serving as Benazir Income Support Programme secretary, is probably the only grade-21 officer in recent history who has been posted as Finance Secretary.
Government’s first choice for finance secretary was Hamid Yaqoob Sheikh, who is serving as Planning and Development Secretary. Sheikh preferred to serve in the planning ministry, a source told The Express Tribune.
The Economic Affairs Division secretary also did not opt to be posted as finance secretary, said the sources.
Shaukat Tarin’s temperament and increasing role of Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Finance Dr Waqar Masood Khan are said to be the reasons behind bureaucrats’ reluctance to take the most prestigious position in the Pakistan Secretariat, said the sources.
After assuming charge as Finance Minister, Shaukat Tarin gave the go-ahead to Dr Kamran Afzal to continue as finance secretary. However, Tarin changed his mind subsequently and sought replacement of the finance secretary.
“It is sad that the government is making changes in key economic ministries so frequently,” said former economic adviser Dr Ashfaque Hasan Khan. “When there is no stability in the economic team, then why should we expect stability in the economic policies,” he added.
Shaukat Tarin is the fourth finance minister appointed by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Tarin’s term is only for six months, until he is elected as a member of parliament.
The finance secretary has been transferred two weeks before the national budget, which is scheduled to be unveiled on June 11.
Kamran Afzal possessed PhD in Political Economy from the University of Melbourne, Australia in 2011. He did Masters in Public Policy and Management from the University of Melbourne in 2003.
Afzal has been posted as Ministry of Industries and Production Secretary. Outgoing industries secretary Sohail Rajput has been posted as Ministry of Information Technology Secretary. Rajput had been posted as industries secretary hardly 10 days ago.
“It is surprising that the government decided to transfer Afzal despite his impeccable reputation and grip over economic issues,” said a member of the federal cabinet on condition of anonymity.
Sources said that Azfal blocked the approval of the draft State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) bill for at least one year. Afzal agreed only after former finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh took the responsibility and approved the proposals pushed by the SBP governor, said the sources.
Yusuf Khan had been the finance secretary of Punjab and served with former chief minister Shehbaz Sharif.
He also served as head of a UK-funded project on deputation - also a reason for the delay in his promotion.
Yusuf Khan is from the 16th common. Khan also served as a joint secretary, first in the external finance wing and then in the development wing of the Ministry of Finance many years ago.
Dr Waqar Masood Khan is now expected to play a more proactive role in administrative affairs of the Ministry of Finance, said the sources.
Waqar Masood will also lead negotiations with the International Monetary Fund that are at a very crucial stage.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2021.