LONDON: After two days of back-to-back meetings of the PML-N senior leadership, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will return to Pakistan on Monday (today), accompanied by Ishaq Dar who is set to take charge as finance minister.
On Sunday, senior party leaders met Miftah Ismail, who handed in his resignation. A statement released after the meeting confirmed that Nawaz Sharif and PM Shehbaz had nominated Mr Dar as the finance minister.
Mr Dar, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Malik Mohammad Ahmed Khan and Ahad Cheema were also present at the meeting which took place in the PM’s apartment on Edgware Road.
A handout released by the party quoted Mr Ismail as saying to Mr Nawaz, “The [finance] ministry was your amanat [given to me on trust], you made me a minister.”
Finance minister tells Dawn he will not take a cabinet position; Marriyum heckled by PTI supporters
Mr Nawaz accepted Mr Ismail’s resignation, and appreciated his efforts to take charge of economy at a “difficult time”. According to the handout, the participants of the meeting agreed that the “financial ruin” wreaked by the previous government was now being addressed by the incumbent government.
It added, quoting Mr Ismail, “In these past four months, I worked to the best of my abilities and was loyal to both the party and the country.”
A source quoted Mr Nawaz as telling the participants that the party has “lost political capital” and that Mr Dar should work to regain it. The source added that Mr Ismail was offered to oversee solar energy and privatisation, but he declined.
Speaking to Dawn, Mr Ismail said, “It was a pleasant meeting. I will now take a few days off to spend time with my family in Karachi. After a short break I will return to Islamabad.”
When asked if he would take a cabinet position if it were offered to him, Mr Ismail said, “No, I won’t.”
Miftah Ismail’s departure comes after months of speculation that Nawaz Sharif and Mr Dar had been unhappy with some of his key decisions, specifically with regard to the fuel price hike.
Editorial: The fall guy
Mr Ismail said, “My job was to save Pakistan from default and I did that. With the floods, the situation has become more challenging but I have faith that we will not be abandoned by the international financial community. I hope the gains made and the fiscal space created will be retained in the long run.”
In early September, Mr Ismail told students present at an event held at Karachi’s Institute of Business Administration that “the government has 13 months but I may not have that much time”. It fuelled speculations about the internal rift within the party, and the senior leadership’s desire to replace him with Mr Dar.
Marriyum Aurangzeb heckled
Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb was heckled and verbally attacked by a group of PTI supporters who followed her into a coffee shop and filmed the entire episode.
On Sunday, Ms Aurangzeb told Dawn she was walking near Marble Arch to take a bus to Kensington, when a group of about 20 people approached her.
“They used bad language. It was abusive and filthy. I kept walking and tried to ignore them, I felt sorry for these people that they were uttering such gendered insults,” she said.
In videos circulating on social media, the minister can be seen standing in line at Pret a Manger on Edgware Road, with PTI supporters calling her a “thief” and saying she was spending thousands of “looted money” by “shopping at Harrods”.
Ms Aurangzeb said a Pret employee approached her to ask for assistance but she told him she would handle it.
Responding to the videos on Twitter, Miftah Ismail defended his colleague by saying, “I salute my sister @Marriyum_A for her grace and composure in the face of such harassment and baseless lies from that uncouth woman (who can be heard but thankfully cannot be seen).”
He added, “Look at these uncivilised and crude people harassing @Marriyum_A. This woman say[s] “yeh awam hay hi begharet” and the man says “may Imran Khan ka sipai hoon”. What’s the gallantry in harassing a woman in a coffee shop? Shameful behaviour. Stay strong Marriyum.”
PM Shehbaz also praised the way Ms Aurangzeb braved the hecklers.
In a tweet, he said: “The manner in which Marriyum Aurangzeb dealt with the harassment from the PTI supporters shows her grace. By her calm & honorable conduct, she exposed the ugly face of the harassers & their promoters. We are proud of her.”
Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2022