Information minister says prime minister wants ‘fresh economic team’ to tackle inflation
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday removed Abdul Hafeez Shaikh from the post of federal finance minister, replacing him with Industries Minister Hammad Azhar, who has been granted additional charge of the finance ministry.
Senior government officials say this is merely the first of a series of reshuffles to the federal cabinet, claiming that some ministers will be replaced, while others will be moved to different ministries in a shakeup that is expected to be fully announced within this week.
In various media appearances after the announcement, Information Minister Shibli Faraz confirmed Shaikh’s exit and hinted that the decision had been taken to curb rising inflation and “provide relief to the public.” He was unable to explain how Azhar could alleviate inflation, as much of it is driven by measures undertaken by the government to secure an International Monetary Fund loan.
Later on Monday night, Faraz appeared to backtrack from his seeming criticism of Shaikh’s performance by “commending” him for his work. “Hafeez Shaikh is a gentle and hard-working man. He served as adviser to the P.M. with commitment and nationalism. Despite difficulties, he contributed towards and played his role in improvement of the economy. We commend his efforts,” he posted on Twitter.
Azhar is the third finance minister appointed by the prime minister since he came into power in August 2018. According to Faraz, he would “strengthen” Khan’s economic team and address the issues facing the people of Pakistan. He noted that inflation was among the topmost concerns of the prime minister and he wanted a “fresh team” to try and overcome it in accordance with ground realities.
“I am honored to be entrusted with the additional charge of finance by the prime minister,” Azhar posted on Twitter. He stressed that Pakistan’s economy had progressed significantly in the past two-and-a-half years, adding that it would continue to consolidate these gains and strengthen growth momentum.
Shaikh’s removal has been seen as fallout of the government’s IMF program by some observers, especially as it comes before June, when he was expected to step down in line with constitutional requirements of unelected members only being allowed to be members of the federal cabinet for a maximum of six months. With Shaikh’s Senate loss to Pakistan Democratic Movement joint candidate Yousaf Raza Gilani, his exit had become inevitable.