Imran Khan axes Finance Minister amid IMF talks

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Imran Khan (Photo: Twitter)

Islamabad– Pakistan Finance Minister Asad Umar was removed on Thursday amid a wave of criticism over the government’s handling of the financial crisis the country is facing.

The change in the Finance Ministry comes at a time when Pakistan is in the middle of negotiating a new relief package with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In a tweet, Umar said the move was “part of a cabinet reshuffle” and that Prime Minister Imran Khan offered him the energy portfolio.

“As part of a cabinet reshuffle, (the) Prime Minister desired that I take the Energy Minister portfolio instead of finance. However, I have obtained his consent to not take any cabinet position.”

“I strongly believe @ImranKhanPTI is the best hope for Pakistan and Insha Allah will make a Naya Pakistan,” he tweeted.

There was no immediate statement from Khan’s office or confirmation of who would replace Umar and it was not clear how his absence would impact the deal, according to the Express Tribune. Umar has said often that “a deal is coming soon, and that it will be the last one”.

Following his tweet, Umar addressed a news conference in which he said “it was time to make some difficult decisions to stabilize the economy” and that he hopes his replacement would be supported in his efforts.

“This does not mean I am not available to forward PTI’s vision for ‘Naya Pakistan’. I am and will always be available to forward the interests of the country.”

Asked whether there had been a conspiracy in the government to remove him, Umar said: “I don’t know if there has been a conspiracy or not, 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.

“We have finalized the IMF agreement on much better terms than before. It is the time to take difficult decisions; I have made these decisions, I refused to take the decisions that would have crushed the nation.”

Defending his performance, he said: “Who says that I have failed in achieving what I wanted to achieve? I had left my job to join the party (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) when we weren’t even in the Parliament, let alone in the opposition.

Pakistan has gone to the IMF repeatedly since the late 1980s and last received an IMF bailout in 2013 to the tune of $6.6 billion.

Earlier this week Hammad Azhar, a state minister for revenue, tweeted that Umar had reached an “agreement in principle” on an IMF deal during a recent trip to Washington, with the agreement to be finalised later this month.

The United Arab Emirates had signed with Pakistan a $3 billion support package in January to boost the liquidity and foreign exchange reserves of the cash-strapped country.

Islamabad had also secured $6 billion in funding from Saudi Arabia.(IANS)

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