- But how did it happen?
On Monday the Information Minister rejected reports about Finance Minister Asad Umar’s removal as fabrication. On Tuesday PEMRA issued show cause notices to two news channels for airing ‘fake news’ regarding the dismissal. Earlier Mr Umar had himself described these reports as no more than wishful thinking on the part of PTI’s political opponents. On Wednesday he was called by the Prime Minister and told to take charge of the Power Ministry as he was required to leave his present job. The unexpected removal of the most important member of Imran Khan’s cabinet came at a time when he was holding crucial talks with the World Bank, IMF and FATF. What is more, he was to present a budget in line with the policies agreed with the Fund in the last week of May. No official explanation was given for his removal.
On Thursday Mr Umar presented his version at a news conference. The former Finance Minister ruled out internal rivalries within the party as a possible reason. He claimed that the agreement being brokered with the IMF now was more favourable for the country than the one originally visualised by the Fund. He rejected that his stand on the tax amnesty scheme had anything to do with his removal. Some of the observations he made at the press conference raised uneasy questions. He implied there were pressures from certain quarters who wanted certain economic decisions in disregard of the public interest. As Mr Umar put it, he was agreeable to measures that would make life difficult for the people for a couple of months but was unwilling to implement policies which would have altogether crushed the common man. A technocrat, he maintained, could ignore the public interest, but not an elected politician like him. Are there any moves afoot to hand over the national economy to technocrats?
The opposition has raised important questions that need to be answered. What was the urgency of removing the Finance Minister who had negotiated a programme with the IMF before his presentation of the budget? His removal, it was pointed out, proved that Imran Khan’s economic policies have failed to deliver. What the PM wanted now was a fall guy.