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Pakistan

March 29, 2021

Govt removes Hafeez Shaikh, appoints Hammad Azhar as new finance minister

Pakistan

Mon, Mar 29, 2021
Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh (left) and Industries Minister Hammad Azhar. — PID/File

The federal government Monday decided to replace Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and appoint Industries Minister Hammad Azhar as the new finance minister.

There was reportedly some resentment among government ministers on matters of taxation and bill-granting autonomy to the State Bank of Pakistan.

The prime minister has reportedly conveyed to the finance minister to step down from his role and a notification in this regard is also expected to be issued soon.

Azhar, reacting to his appointment, said: "I am honoured to be entrusted with the additional charge of Finance by the Prime Minister."

"Pakistan's economy has made significant gains towards stabilisation since 2018. We shall continue to consolidate these gains and strengthen the growth momentum," he added.

The development comes after PPP candidate Yusuf Raza Gilani defeated Hafeez Shaikh for the Islamabad general seat in Senate elections. Following the defeat, Prime Minister Imran Khan on March 6, had directed Shaikh to carry on his duties as Minister for Finance.

Sources had informed Geo News that the prime minister, in a meeting with the finance minister, expressed full confidence in his abilities and asked him to continue with his work.

PM Imran Khan said he recognises the efforts Shaikh has made to boost Pakistan's economy, said the sources.

They added that following Shaikh's meeting with the premier, he decided not to hand in his resignation.

In 2019, amid a cabinet reshuffle, Shaikh had been appointed Advisor on Finance after Minister for Finance Asad Umar tendered in his resignation.

In December last year, however, the Islamabad High Court ruled that special assistants and advisors have no authority to chair or sit in on meetings of cabinet committees.

The judgment noted that Article 93 of the Constitution allows the prime minister to appoint up to five advisors, but the conferring of a federal minister status on an advisor is "only for the purpose of perks and privileges" and "does not make the advisor a federal minister as such".

It further ruled an advisor "can address the Parliament but cannot participate in the voting process".

The PTI, however, found that it can remedy this sticky situation. The prime minister is empowered to appoint an un-elected individual as a minister for six months under Article 91(9) of the Constitution.

It was under this allowance that a few days after IHC's ruling, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh took oath as Minister for Finance.

However, the Constitution states that at the end of six months, that individual will "cease to be a minister and shall not before the dissolution of that Assembly be again appointed a minister unless he is elected a member of that Assembly".

The article also states that "nothing contained in this clause shall apply to a Minister who is member of the Senate".

The government was looking to the outcome of the Senate polls to resolve this conundrum but Shaikh lost to Gilani.

Shaikh still had time until June — under the ordinance that allowed him to become finance minister — to continue his duties in that capacity.