ISLAMABAD: Did he resign or was he ousted? He claims that he resigned because he was being nominated as one of the government’s candidates for the interim PM’s job. But all other indications hint at an unceremonious ouster.Still, it is intriguing, if he was asked to resign, why did the government wait all these three years to make its move when it is almost time for the entire government to go home?
It was amid these rumours of growing differences with the president that Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Tuesday finally resigned from his position as finance minister.
Officials privately said that President Asif Ali Zardari removed Shaikh as the country’s finance minister after differences between the two over the filling of important posts and key policy issues reached a point of no return.
When contacted, Shaikh confirmed his resignation to The Express Tribune and said that since he had been nominated for the slot of the caretaker prime minister, he deemed it unfit to be part of the incumbent government anymore.
Immediately thereafter, the president administered the oath of the vacant position to his Senator Salim Mandviwalla — the fifth finance minister during the tenure of the incumbent PPP-led coalition.
Mandviwalla had recently been appointed the minister for state for finance — a move many had predicated was the beginning of the end of Shaikh’s three years as the finance minister. Shaikh had assumed the office on March 18, 2010 after then finance minister Shaukat Tarin quit office.
The change of guard at the Ministry of Finance comes less than a month before parliament completes its terms and the move is likely to further erode confidence in the country’s flagging economy, say analysts.
Shaikh’s associates confirmed that the finance minister resigned after the establishment gave a green signal to appoint him as the caretaker prime minister. It is still not clear whether he has surrendered his senate seat that he had secured on a PPP ticket.
At the same time, the possibility of Shaikh winning Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s nod is highly unlikely after the mainstream opposition party reportedly shortlisted Justice (retd) Ajmal Mian and Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid as its choices for the caretaker premier.
According to speculation in Islamabad, Shaikh is also being considered for the slot of the caretaker chief minister for Sindh. Shaikh was running the finance ministry through his trustworthy Finance Secretary Abdul Wajid Rana who was removed last week. After Rana’s removal, Shaikh reportedly lost control over the ministry as most top bureaucrats swore allegiance to Mandviwalla.
According to the Q-Block dwellers, the ministry was clearly divided between two camps: the Mandviwalla and the Shaikh camp.
Officials told The Express Tribune that in the past, on two occasions, President Zardari had asked Shaikh to quit if they could not co-exist.
It was disclosed that the first rift appeared over the nominee for the post of chairman Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan. The finance minster moved the summary thrice to former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani but it was not approved.
The second point of contention was the appointment of the chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue, Ali Arshad Hakeem, say insiders.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2013.