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April 12, 2013

Zardari wanted to control finance ministry matters

April 12, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Former finance minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh has revealed that President Asif Ali Zardari did not pursue his name for the slot of caretaker prime minister because he might have feared a prolonged tenure of the caretaker set-up beyond its few months’ mandate of holding the elections.
“President Zardari never remained comfortable with me for a variety of reasons as I never tried to become a part of the inner circle of the Presidency during my stay asthe finance minister for three years because I preferred professionalism to getting closer to the ruling arithmetic.
“I always resisted key appointments contrary to the desires of the powerful man such as governor State Bank of Pakistan, chairman FBR, members of different boards and even asked curtailing of powers of some federal ministers in the interest of the country,” former federal minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh said in an exclusive interview with The News here at his residence on Thursday afternoon.
In a detailed two-hour-long discussion on a variety of issues ranging from politics to economy, Dr Sheikh said he did not know whether COAS General Ashfaque Parvez Kayani floated his name for the slot of caretaker prime minister or not but there were many other people who supported him for the post.
When asked whether he felt being ditched by the president and PPP on the issue of caretaker PM, the former minister, known for his cautious replies, said he would not use the expression of being ditched but added that friction existed between him and the president on different issues and cited an example that the president always desired to discuss the agenda of Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) with him prior to holding the meeting but he never accepted his viewpoint because it was against the norms of transparency and fair play.
He said he always tried to establish relations with the president on the basis of mutual respect and the president also reciprocated in the same

manner.“Keeping in view my professional requirement to express my views in an open and candid manner, I always presented divergent views in a polite manner and always tried to strike a balance between professionalism and not being dubbed as disloyal,” he added.
“The ECC was among those forums which were functioning, so barring a few instances I refused to take any pressure and took decisions on merit,” he said and added that there was a perception among different ministers of the government the ECC took extra time in taking decisions but he ensured decisions on merit in most of the cases.
He claimed contrary to the public perception, the PML (N) leader Mian Nawaz Sharif was not strongly opposing his name. “Technically, the president floated my name but did not put his 100 percent backing mainly because of having an impression that I am not 100 percent following his line,” he added.
His differences became pronounced in the last few months of his tenure as he opposed doling out massive resources for petroleum and electricity sectors in an unaccountable manner. Once, the issue of transferring the finance secretary also became the source of friction because he was not in favour of abrupt changes in finance division.
He also felt lonely at different stages when implementation on IMF programme came on the surface. When asked why he did not resign keeping in view the difficult situation for him, he said he thought of it on three occasions but figured out that it would not resolve the problems but might aggravate the situation. He was also not comfortable with the idea to leave someone in halfway, so he made efforts to play his role in a positive manner.
To another query about resigning from the membership of Senate that created an impression that the PPP wanted to get rid of him, he said it was unfair to blame others as he took the decision because it would have been unfair to continue keeping the seat of the Upper House on the strength of the ruling party and then becoming a candidate for the caretaker premiership.
He said that he never demanded anything for himself or for relatives during his stay in the government and the record could prove his claims. When choice was given to resign from the Senate for becoming a nominee of caretaker premiership, he resigned without thinking for a moment. When asked about his future plans, he said that he was considering different options and would strive for getting advisory positions based in Dubai and would find time to ensure reading and writing.
He also has plans to write a book about his experiences in three different positions of power from 2000 to 2003 as finance minister in Sindh, then privatisation minister in the Musharraf regime till 2006 and left his government when he was enjoying sole power in the country. “I expressed my views in front of General Musharraf that there was no elegant way for a general to become ruler of this country,” he said that Pakistan experienced wonderful administration during the first three years of Musharraf’s rule but then inbuilt discrepancies came on the surface.
He said that he had left Musharraf’s cabinet when there was no chance of losing his grip on power because of a variety of reasons, including his disappointment of making efforts for longevity of personal rule.
To a query about former PM Shaukat Aziz, he recalled that once General Musharraf sought his opinion about Shaukat Aziz and he told him that he praised him because he belonged to a middle class family and earned good reputation while working in distinguished banking institutions of the world.
He said that he might have possessed divergent views on professional issues with Shaukat Aziz but he never wanted to belittle anyone when someone asked about any individual as “I also thought at that moment that my views about him would actually expose my own character and my own upbringing.”

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