Ministry of Finance directed to follow Miftah Ismail
ISLAMABAD: The Principal Secretary of Prime Minister Fawad Hassan Fawad, who has been a powerful bureaucrat in the government for over four years, is now indirectly running affairs of Ministry of Finance after the indefinite leave of Ishaq Dar as finance minister.
An official at the Ministry of Finance (MoF), speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that though Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has directed the ministry to follow the guidelines given by his Special Assistant on Economic Affairs Miftah Ismail, things are controlled by the PM Secretariat via Ismail. “Fawad is actually in the driving seat after Dar,” he said.
“Whoever wins to grab the post of finance minister from within the existing cabinet members, the actual player will be the PM Office, as no one can match the role of Ishaq Dar, who enjoyed close ties with the ruling family,” the official said, adding “those who actually enjoy power in this government do not want Miftah to head the MoF.”
The principal secretary of prime minister, a trusted bureaucrat of the ousted PM Nawaz Sharif, has been interfering in the affairs of various ministries without caring about ministers’ reservations. Industries minister has also complained about the unwanted interference of Fawad in his ministry.
“The ministry’s officials have currently been directed by the prime minister to follow Miftah, who, along with the finance secretary and State Bank governor, are abroad for marketing the Sukuk/bonds worth 3 billion dollars,” he said.
Meanwhile, insiders claim that since financial experts like Shaukat Tareen, Isharat Hussain et al., are reluctant to hold the responsibility of finance division in the prevailing situation of the economy, the name of Parliamentary Secretary on Finance Rana Afzal Khan is under consideration for state minister on finance. “Even if Rana is given the post, the PM Secretariat will be supervising affairs of the ministry,” they said, adding Rana was the most deserving person of the post since he has been defending the finance ministry’s affairs—both in the parliament and standing committees’ meetings. However, a proposal to set up an economic advisory council, comprising prominent people, was also on the cards.
According to MoF officials, the interference of PM Secretariat started with the abrupt change of acting finance secretary by the PM House within 24 hours of the additional charge given to Additional Finance Secretary Ghazanfar Abbasi Jilani by the Finance Secretary Shahid Mehmood until his return from Dubai. Mahmood had left for Dubai on Tuesday to launch sovereign bonds. The PM Secretariat has now allotted the additional charge of finance secretary to Economic Affairs Division Secretary Arif Ahmad Khan.
“As the powerful secretary at PM House, through a recent letter, has already shown concerns about corruption by officials at Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), changes of high official, including the chairman of the board, were also likely to be made soon. All those top officials at MoF and its subsidiary departments, who are considered trustworthy of Ishaq Dar, may be relieved of charges or transferred to other ministries in near future,” said the insiders.
The changes of personnel in finance division are looming with the decision of PM Abbasi about relieving Dar of all official responsibilities while accepting his request for ‘leave of absence’ on ‘medical’ grounds on Wednesday. The portfolio of finance, revenue and economic affairs, has been retained by the prime minister.