PM Imran decides to remove Hafeez Shaikh, give finance portfolio to Hammad Azhar

Published March 29, 2021
This combination file photo shows Hammad Azhar (L) and Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh (R). — APP/DawnNewsTV
This combination file photo shows Hammad Azhar (L) and Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh (R). — APP/DawnNewsTV

The government on Monday decided to remove Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh from the post of finance minister and replace him with Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar, Senator Shibli Faraz confirmed to Samaa TV.

According to Faraz, Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to bring in a new finance team in view of "the inflation that had taken place".

Azhar is the third finance minister to be appointed since the PTI came to power in 2018.

Prime Minister Imran "gave the portfolio of finance to Hammad Azhar who is a young and able minister so that he devises policies according to the ground realities of Pakistan and the poor get relief", said Faraz.

He said that he did not know about Sheikh's future in the government, adding that further likely changes in the cabinet will be disclosed by tomorrow.

The move comes weeks after Hafeez Shaikh, who enjoyed the status of minister since December last year, lost the bid for a Senate seat to PPP's Yousuf Raza Gilani, leading to questions about his status in the federal cabinet.

Shaikh, who is not a member of Parliament, was previously an adviser to the premier on finance and was appointed as finance minister in December last year. However, as per Article 91 (9) of the Constitution, he cannot remain a minister for more than six months until he is elected to one of the houses. Thus, it was necessary for him to be elected to the Senate this time around in order to continue as the finance minister after June.

Following his loss, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan had questioned how Sheikh could be in the office as an unelected member of the cabinet despite losing the Senate election.

"In truly democratic countries people voluntarily resign from the public offices if [they are] not elected," the chief justice observed and added the establishment of the democracy warranted actions, not mere words.

"It seems Sheikh would hold his bag and just depart once the job is done," he remarked.

The CJ was hearing a petition challenging the appointment of all advisers and special assistants to Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Meanwhile, Azhar said he was "honoured to be entrusted with the additional charge of finance" by Prime Minister Imran.

He said the country's economy had made "significant gains towards stabilisation" since the PTI came to power in 2018.

"We shall continue to consolidate these gains and strengthen the growth momentum," he tweeted.

"We navigated [economic] fallout of covid-19 fairly well. The world is witnessing supply chain disruptions & rise in food prices. We shall endeavour to protect our ppl from these shocks," he added.

Reacting to the development, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari declared it a "victory of PDM".

"PTIMF minister needed to be elected to continue in post & senate defeat made that impossible," he added.

The month of February had seen a rebound in prices of consumer items as inflation edged up to 8.7 per cent from 5.7pc in January.

Non-food inflation has steadily been on the rise for the past few months due to higher energy prices.

With shortages in domestic production, inflation at the beginning of the current fiscal year stood at 9.3pc in July, easing down to 8.2pc in August before rebounding to 9pc in September. Since September, inflation has been on a downward trajectory, giving some relief to end consumers.

The opposition blames the government's mismanagement of the economy for having brought the GDP down to as low as 0.4pc from 5.8pc during the PML-N government and the inflation jumping to as high as 14pc from below 4pc.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecasted the economy to grow 1.5pc this year against the government's target of 2.3pc in the fiscal year 2020-21.

Who is Hammad Azhar?

In June 2019, Azhar had presented the PTI government's first annual budget in the National Assembly.

Azhar graduated with a bachelors degree in Development Economics from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

He then completed his postgraduate diploma in law from the BPP Law School in London. He enrolled for the Bar Vocational Course in 2004 and was formally called to the Bar at The Honorable Society of Lincoln’s Inn in 2005.

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