PML-N leader Miftah Ismail formally resigned from the post of finance minister on Tuesday, paving the way for party stalwart Ishaq Dar to take over.
In his resignation letter dated September 27, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Ismail wrote, “I wish to resign from the position of minister of finance and revenue with immediate effect.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve my country in your [Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s] administration, which was an honour and a privilege.”
A day earlier, Dar returned to Pakistan after five years in self-exile. He is expected to be sworn in, first as a senator and then as minister for finance, today.
Ismail’s departure comes after months of speculation that PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and Dar had been unhappy with some of his key decisions, specifically with regard to the fuel price hike.
Last month, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said she did not agree with the decision to hike petrol and electricity prices, saying she did not own such decisions, whether her party was in government or not.
On Sunday, in a meeting with senior party leaders in London, Ismail said he had “verbally” resigned from his post. A statement released after the meeting confirmed that Nawaz and PM Shehbaz had nominated Dar as the new finance minister.
Speaking to Dawn, 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, Ismail said, “No, I won’t.”
In early September, 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 in the party, and the senior leadership’s desire to replace him with Dar.
These speculations were confirmed after a slew of audio recordings, purportedly of conversations between the prime minister and key PML-N figures, were leaked over the weekend.
One of them features a conversation between Maryam and PM Shehbaz about Ismail.
“He doesn’t take responsibility […] says strange things on TV for which people make fun of him […] he doesn’t know what he is doing,” the voice said to be Maryam’s says in the clip.
“He clearly cut corners,” the voice said to be PM Shehbaz’s is heard as saying.
“Uncle, he doesn’t know what he is doing,” Maryam purportedly says, as she wishes for the return of Ishaq Dar.
The change of command at the Ministry of Finance comes during a dark time for the country’s economy, which is hounded by fears of default after being hit by unprecedented currency devaluation and devastating floods.