Islamabad [Pakistan], July 3 (ANI): Finance Minister Miftah Ismail has been facing criticism from within the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) amid speculations of ex-financial czar Ishaq Dar’s return to Pakistan to replace him.
The finance minister is under pressure since the government announced multiple hikes in petroleum products and the delay in the revival of the International Monetary Fund bailout programme, reported Geo News.
“I have support from the federal cabinet and PML-N but there are few party members criticising and opposing me,” Miftah said while talking to The Express Tribune, adding that he understands that party leaders were unable to go to their constituencies after the government took some tough decisions to fix economic issues.
Expressing his gratitude to party stalwarts, Miftah revealed that he is under immense pressure because of being the face of the ruling alliance’s “unpopular decisions”, adding that he did not even want to hold the last press conference where he had to announce the increase in petroleum prices once again.
“I did not want to go for the last press conference, and I had even refused before being persuaded by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif,” Miftah revealed. “I swear it has never happened that I was unable to find suitable words; I kept thinking what words should I be using to start the press conference.”Earlier, the finance minister said that he was “not supposed to” appear on national television the night before to announce a hike in the prices of petroleum products but he did so after being asked by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
His comments came after a clip of his appearance on a television show was shared on social media, reported Geo News.
Along with this, the news of senior leader Ishaq Dar’s return to Pakistan has also added fuel to the fire as many believe that Miftah may be shown the door and asked to hand over the reins of the finance ministry to the senator-elect.
The possible changeover, just a few months after the coalition government took office, has left economists and commentators concerned over its possible impact on the economy and the ongoing talks with the IMF.
Asked if he will be willing to leave the finance portfolio for Dar, Miftah said that it is not about his willingness or unwillingness as it is the prime minister’s discretion to keep him or anyone else as the country’s financial czar, reported The Express Tribune.
“I know only one thing that I would comply with whatever decision the prime minister takes within the next 15 minutes of becoming aware of it,” Miftah said, adding that 15-minute time would be enough even if PM’s Principal Secretary Dr Tauqir Shah conveys the decision of his removal.
He, however, emphasised that he will stay with the party and do whatever task he is given even if he is replaced or moved somewhere. “This has to be PM’s decision; it is his discretion,” he reiterated.
However, Ismail found unequivocal support from party stalwart – Defence Minister Khwaja Asif on Saturday spoke in support of him, reported Geo News.
The defence minister appreciated his colleague for executing his duties “under difficult circumstances” and called him one of the “hardest working” member of PM Shehbaz’s team.
“FM Miftah is among the hardest working members of PM’s team, accessible to all stakeholders. He is performing very well under difficult circumstances, with immense criticism from vested interests — including, and unfortunately, from within PML-N. Time to show solidarity with Miftah,” tweeted the defence minister.
Hours after Asif’s tweet, senior PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also came out in Miftah’s support.
“Miftah Ismail’s knowledge of economics and the Pakistan economy is without parallel in Pakistan politics today. He is one of the most effective members of PM’s cabinet,” said the former prime minister.
The PML-N leader said that the finance minister “played a crucial role in saving Pakistan from default and in implementing PML-N’s economic reform agenda”. (ANI)
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