Uncertainty hangs over Pakistani finance minister’s future after criticism from within ruling party

Pakistan's Finance Minister Miftah Ismail speaks during the launch ceremony of 'Economy Survey 2021-22' in Islamabad on June 9, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 03 July 2022

Uncertainty hangs over Pakistani finance minister’s future after criticism from within ruling party

  • Miftah Ismail says he has become the face of unpopular economic decisions taken by the current administration
  • Some people speculate Ismail may be replaced in coming days by Pakistan’s former finance minister Ishaq Dar

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s finance minister Miftah Ismail confirmed on Sunday he was facing opposition and criticism from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party since he had become the face of unpopular economic decisions taken by the government, though some of his senior colleagues openly came to his rescue as well.

Ismail, a former International Monetary Fund (IMF) employee and the owner of Pakistan’s largest confectionary company, was handed the finance portfolio by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in April when the country’s cash-strapped economy was facing multiple crises.

With a mounting import bill and dwindling foreign currency reserves, the finance minister was forced to raise the prices of petroleum products four times in little over one month while trying to revive a $6 billion IMF loan program.

His political woes were further compounded by media reports about the possible return of Pakistan’s former finance minister Ishaq Dar from self-imposed exile in London, creating some speculation that Ismail may ultimately have to step down and make space for his senior party colleague.

“I have support from the federal cabinet and PML-N but there are few party members criticizing and opposing me,” he was quoted by Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper.

The finance minister acknowledged he was under tremendous pressure, adding he did not want to hold his last press conference in which he announced increase in the petroleum product prices. However, he informed it was the prime minister who convinced him otherwise.

“I swear it has never happened that I was unable to find suitable words,” he said. “I kept thinking what words should I be using to start the press conference.”

Asked if he was willing to be replaced by Dar, he said it was the prime minister’s prerogative to make such decisions.

“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,” he said.

He maintained he would continue to be with the party and support its decisions even if he was removed from the post.

However, he got some support from defense minister Khawaja Asif on Saturday who said Miftah was “among the hardest working members of the PM’s team” who was performing “well under difficult circumstances.”

Asif asked other PML-N members to “show solidarity” with the finance minister.

Another PML-N stalwart and former prime minister of the country Shahid Khaqan Abbasi agreed with him, saying Ismail’s knowledge of Pakistan’s economy was “without parallel in Pakistan[‘s] politics today.”

“He is one of the most effective members of PM’s cabinet,” Abbasi continued. “He has played a crucial role in saving Pakistan from default and in implementing PMLN’s economic reform agenda.”


Army chief addresses graduation ceremony at UK's Sandhurst, congratulates cadets including two Pakistanis

Updated 7 sec ago

Army chief addresses graduation ceremony at UK's Sandhurst, congratulates cadets including two Pakistanis

  • Army chief attends UK military academy’s passing-out-parade
  • Armies exist to ensure wars do not take place, says General Bajwa

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa addressed a passing-out parade at the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) on Friday, during which he congratulated cadets, which included two Pakistanis, for successfully completing their training.  

Bajwa arrived in the UK on Thursday during which he met the country’s military officials. He attended the RMAS passing-out parade on Friday.  

RMAS trains cadets to take on the responsibility to lead soldiers in battle. Considered one of the finest military academies around the globe, RMAS has trained cadets from several countries.  

During his address, Bajwa congratulated the graduating cadets for working hard throughout their time at the academy, paying credit to their families for supporting them consistently.  

“Two Pakistani cadets would also be graduating with you today. Let me say that I am as proud of you all, as I am proud of them,” he said.  

The army chief emphasized the importance of armies around the world, saying that they should exist to prevent conflict rather than fan it.  

“The primary reason for armed forces to exist today, should not be to prosecute wars, but to ensure that they do not take place,” he said.  

Pakistan’s army chief urged people to come together and take the route of peace rather than conflict and choose “communication instead of clash and multilateralism instead of self-preservation.” 

Bajwa advised cadets to adapt to technological changes in warfare brought about by the industrial revolution, adding that artificial intelligence was altering the course of wars.  

“The battlefield of tomorrow would be characterized by extreme precision, lethality and transparency which would be particularly challenging for military leaders, especially young officers in the battle, both mentally and physically,” he explained.


In Pakistan’s southwest, Royal Palace of Kalat where Jinnah was weighed in gems

Updated 12 August 2022

In Pakistan’s southwest, Royal Palace of Kalat where Jinnah was weighed in gems

  • Jinnah visited the Khan of Kalat for the first time in 1945 while the independence movement was at its peak
  • Second visit was after partition to collect donations so Bank of England could print currency for the new nation

QUETTA: A sprawling palace in Pakistan’s southwest, hemmed in by scenic mountains and apple orchards, has a special connection to the country’s founding father, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

The princely state of Kalat is in Pakistan’s largest but most impoverished province of Balochistan, and acceded to the dominion of Pakistan on March 27, 1948, after having declared independence earlier on August 15, 1947. The accession was a stormy affair, and insurgencies continue in Balochistan to this day against the state of Pakistan.

But before partition, Jinnah twice visited the Royal Palace of Kalat, built over 8,000 square feet of land, and home to the ruler of the princely state, the Khan of Kalat. The building’s design is inspired by the upper deck of a ship on which the Khan went for the first time on a Hajj pilgrimage. Before the royal residence was built, the rulers of the area had lived in the ancient Mirri Fort which was flattened in a devastating earthquake that shook the region in 1935.

“Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah visited the Royal Palace of Kalat in 1945 and 1948,” Prince Agha Umar Jan Ahmedzai, the Khan’s grandson, told Arab News in Kalat. “During Mr. Jinnah’s two visits, he was welcomed by the people of Balochistan because we knew he was leading a sacred cause for the Muslims of the British-ruled Subcontinent.”

The image shows the exterior view of the Royal Palace of Kalat in Pakistan's Balochistan province on August 5, 2022 (AN Photo)

Ahmedzai said Kalat had played a major role in strengthening the country and was instrumental in getting Pakistan over 40 percent of its land in the shape of the resource-rich province of Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province by area.

According to the prince, Jinnah spent two days in the newly constructed palace during his first visit, and returned three years later for an entire week.

The Khan of Kalat had designated two of the most luxurious rooms on the top floor of the palace for Jinnah and his sister, Fatima Jinnah, and offered them expensive gifts of gold and gemstones when they visited.

“Mr. Jinnah came with his sister Fatima Jinnah to the Royal Palace of Kalat [in 1945] where my grandfather weighed [him] and donated him gems according to his weight,” Ahmedzai said. To Fatima, the Khan gave an expensive necklace. 

He added that the founder of Pakistan also sought donations during his second visit to the palace in 1948 since the Bank of England had inquired about gold reserves before printing currency notes for the new nation.

“There was a currency problem when Pakistan came into existence and Quaid-e-Azam came here in distress, saying he had gone to businessmen of Karachi but could not gather the gold which was required for currency deposits [with the British],” Jan said.

“So, almost 1,360 kilograms of gold was given by Khan Ahmed Yar Khan [the Khan] for the printing of currency.”

“This house has overall a lot of importance. In Pakistan’s existence … definitely there is a big role of the Baloch people and this house.”

In Jinnah’s memory, the royal family has preserved all the items Jinnah used during his stay in the palace.

Saeed Ahmed Naichari, whose family has served the palace for four generations, said his job was to brief tourists about the history of the place.

“Even the overcoats worn by Muhammad Ali Jinnah still hang in the wardrobe,” he said as he gave Arab News a tour of the palace.

The picture taken on August 5, 2022 shows an overcoat worn by the founder of Pakistan, Muhmmad Ali Jinnah, during his visit to the Royal Palace in 1948, in Kalat, Pakistan, on August 5, 2022 (AN Photo)

“Our family looks after this house,” Ahmedzai added. “This is not just our house but this is a house of the Baloch nation. When you go to someone’s house, you cannot enter the gate but this house is open for everyone. And it is open for all Balochis, Pakistanis and for everyone who wants to visit it.”


Pakistan captain Babar rules out Malik return for T20 World Cup

Updated 12 August 2022

Pakistan captain Babar rules out Malik return for T20 World Cup

  • Babar says team needed to give fresh talent more opportunities to develop 
  • Malik played last of his 124 T20 Internationals against Bangladesh last November

LAHORE: Pakistan captain Babar Azam has ruled out a return for veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik to the Twenty20 squad ahead of the World Cup in Australia, saying the team needed to give fresh talent more opportunities to develop.

Malik, who played the last of his 124 Twenty20 Internationals against Bangladesh last November, has impressed in Pakistan's domestic T20 league and with the Asia Cup and World Cup on the horizon local media suggested the 40-year-old's experience could prove invaluable.However, there was no place for the former captain, a useful all-rounder, in the squad for this month's Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Babar said they were looking to the future with the World Cup coming up in October-November.

"There are matches immediately after Netherlands, so it's unlikely there will be time for changes," Babar told reporters on Thursday ahead of their Dutch tour next week.

"When senior players leave the side, those replacing them need focus. (Mohammad) Hafeez and Malik were huge players and we'll miss them a lot, and players like Asif Ali, Khushdil Shah and Iftikhar (Ahmed) need to fill their boots.

"We want to give them plenty of matches and confidence, and these players have performed."

Pakistan will play three one-day internationals in Rotterdam before arriving in the UAE where they begin their Asia Cup campaign with an Aug. 28 blockbuster against arch-rivals India in Dubai.


Pakistan, Turkey sign trade in goods agreement

Updated 12 August 2022

Pakistan, Turkey sign trade in goods agreement

  • Pakistan PM has resolved to take bilateral trade with Turkey to $5 billion in next three years
  • Pakistan commerce minister Naveed Qamar and Turkish trade minister Mehmet Mus singed document 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Turkey on Friday signed a ‘Trade in Goods Agreement’ under which both countries will get concessions on the trade of a number of goods and aim to increase bilateral trade.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in May visited Turkey where he expressed his resolve to take bilateral trade between the two countries to $5 billion in the next three years. The leadership of the two countries had also agreed then to speed up the process to finalize the Trade in Goods Agreement.

Pakistan’s minister for commerce Naveed Qamar and Turkish trade minister Mehmet Mus singed the new deal in Islamabad.

Sharif, while addressing the signing agreement, said the agreement had been under discussion for many years and would now open “vistas of opportunities” for both countries.

“Our potential is unlimited, our capacity is beyond anybody’s imagination and commitment is outstanding,” Sharif said. “Let’s now resolve to implement this agreement in letter and spirit and let the world know that we mean business.” 

“This Agreement will be pivotal in achieving the initial trade target of $5 billion. There is an unlimited potential for bilateral trade,” Sharif later said in tweet.

Turkish trade minister Mus called the agreement an important mile stone in bilateral ties.

“I strongly believe that this agreement will serve the expansion of our bilateral trade and will be most important tool to catch our 5 billion US dollar [bilateral] trade volume [target] set by our leaders,” Mus said.

The Pakistani commerce minister said under the new agreement, both countries had granted concessions to each other on a number of trading lines.

“I must say that we are grateful that our brothers from Turkey have given us concessions in 231 lines and Pakistan has given concession in 130 lines,” Qamar said.


'Sedition' case: Pakistani court sends ex-PM Khan aide to jail on judicial remand

Updated 12 August 2022

'Sedition' case: Pakistani court sends ex-PM Khan aide to jail on judicial remand

  • Gill was arrested on Tuesday afternoon over televised comments the media regulator says were “seditious”
  • Khan condemns “torture” of Gill in police custody, says he deserves a “fair hearing” even if he broke a law

ISLAMABAD: A local court in the federal capital on Friday sent Dr. Shahbaz Gill, a senior Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader and former prime minister Imran Khan’s chief of staff, to jail on judicial remand, rejecting a request by police to extend the suspect’s physical remand.

Gill was arrested on Tuesday afternoon, a day after controversial comments on a talk show aired by a private news channel, asking army officers not to follow orders of their top command if they were “against the sentiments of the masses.”

Local media reported Gill told the judge police had kept him awake at night and tortured him, saying investigators had not carried out a medical examination and lawyers were not being allowed to meet him.

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan took to the twitter and condemned what he said was “torture being inflicted on Shahbaz Gill.”

“Under what law & under who’s orders is this being done? If he broke any law then he shd be given a fair hearing,” Khan said. “All laws are being violated with impunity.”

On Monday, the country’s national media regulator issued a show cause notice to ARY News, the channel on which Gill’s comments were aired, describing them as “seditious.” The channel has also been off air since Monday night.

A day earlier, on Thursday, a Karachi court released Ammad Yousaf, the news director at ARY News, while the Sindh High Court directed Pakistan’s media regulator and cable operators to restore the channel’s transmission immediately.