Pak PM Imran Khan Appoints New Finance Ministry Chief Amid Economic Crisis

Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. — File

Umar tweeted Thursday, April 18, 2019 that Prime Minister Imran Khan offered him the energy portfolio in the Cabinet but he refused.

Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, who already served as finance minister from 2010-2013 under the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party when it was in power, has been appointed as "Adviser on Finance" but will be heading the finance ministry once again.

Umar had announced on Thursday that he was stepping down as finance minister after he "convinced" the prime minister that he did not wish to remain a part of the cabinet.

Prime Minister Imran Khan's eight-month-old administration has faced sustained criticism from political opponents, independent commentators and the business community over the government's handling of the economic crisis facing the country.

"The next budget will be a hard one", he added, referring to annual spending plans for the financial year ending June 2020 due to announced in May.

Azam Swati, who stepped down previous year as minister of science and technology for allegedly using his influence over police to register a case against a poor family, made a comeback and appointed as minister for parliamentary affairs.

Another major change in the cabinet was that of minister for petroleum and natural resources Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who has now been given the charge of the aviation division.

Nadeem Babar, who is now the chairman of the Task Force on Energy, has been made the PM's special assistant on petroleum division.

Speculation that Umar would leave had been rife for months, with some business groups and investors unhappy with his strategy of seeking short-term loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia instead of finalising an International Monetary Fund rescue package after Khan assumed power in August. The rupee currency has also lost about 35 per cent since December 2017.

Pakistan has so far received a total of United States $9.1 billion in financial aid packages from friendly countries like China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE during the current fiscal year.

The central bank last month lowered growth forecasts and raised interest rates at a time when inflation is at a five-year high.

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