Islamabad: Finance Minister Asad Umar — an hour after announcing that he is stepping down as finance minister — told a press conference that it was time to make some “difficult decisions” to stabilise the economy and that he hopes his replacement would be supported in their efforts.
Umar announced earlier on Thursday that he has obtained the prime minister’s consent “to not take any cabinet position” days after reports of a reshuffle in the cabinet were rubbished by the government’s spokesperson.
“As part of a cabinet reshuffle, [the] prime minister desired that I take the energy minister portfolio instead of finance,” he said. “However, I have obtained his consent to not take any cabinet position.”
Umar ended his tweet by saying: “I strongly believe @ImranKhanPTI is the best hope for Pakistan and inshAllah will make a naya Pakistan.”
During the press conference, Umar with an upbeat tenor said he was asked to take the energy portfolio following a reshuffle in the cabinet.
“I met the prime minister this morning and convinced him that I did not want to take any portfolio,” he said. “This does not mean that I am not available to forward PTI’s vision for ‘Naya Pakistan’. I am and will always be available to forward the interests of this country.
“It was on exactly this date in 2012, when newspapers had announced that I was joining the PTI. Today seven years later, I am giving you this news. “It has been a wonderful journey of seven years and I will continue this journey.
“I need to thank the PTI’s youth for their enthusiasm. I need to say that when we came in, the economy was in a dangerous and sorry state, we were standing near a ditch, one move and we would have been in the ditch. The state of the economy is still not great [and] the next finance minister that comes in will still have a hard time.
“What I want is that whoever comes in is supported when they make difficult decisions for the sake of the nation. “I believe that this decision should be made as soon as possible … we are about to go to the IMF, we are about to present the budget. This is already too late, the next person should have come in earlier, at least a month ago.
“I came here so that I could do something for the betterment of the country. I don’t know if there has been a conspiracy or not [to remove me] but all I know is that my ‘captain’ wanted to see me in the role of the energy minister. I did not think that would be a great idea so I refused.
“We have finalised the IMF agreement on much better terms than before. It is the time to take difficult decisions; I have made these decisions, I refused to take the decisions that would have crushed the nation.
Defending his performance in response to a question, he said: “Who says that I have failed in achieving what I wanted to achieve? I had left my job to join the party (PTI) when we weren’t even in the parliament, let alone in the opposition. Look at how far we have come from that. I am not letting PTI go, I truly believe that ‘Naya Pakistan’ will become a reality.
‘Disappointment’ among PTI ranks
It is unclear whether Umar has officially submitted a resignation, and whether it has been accepted. In a video recorded soon after the news broke, Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari told reporters that she had no idea about the development. “I was just in a meeting and Asad Umar was the finance minister [in the meeting], so I have no idea if anything else has happened,” she said.
PML-N leader and Umar’s brother Mohammad Zubair said he hopes “whoever comes now will take a running start and implement the things that need to be done.”
Umar recently returned from a trip to Washington in which the details of Pakistan’s next International Monetary Fund bailout were finalised, documented and signed. An IMF mission is expected to visit Islamabad before the end of the month to work out technical tables since all major issues had been settled and documented, Umar had said.