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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has decided to remove Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh as Finance Minister due to his “failure” to check rising inflation and replace him with Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar. Azhar, who is given the additional charge of finance and revenue affairs, will be the third finance minister to be appointed since the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) came to power following the 2018 general elections.

This was revealed by minister for information and broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz at a private news channel. According to him, the prime minister has also decided to form a new economic team. An official told Business Recorder that Dr Hafeez Shaikh did not attend office on Monday – perhaps as the decision had already been communicated to him – and the weekly meeting of National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) was presided over by Hammad Azhar, though his notification as Finance Minister has not yet been uploaded on Cabinet Division’s website. Moreover, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting is being tipped as minister for petroleum after the recent removal of Nadeem Babar, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on petroleum. It is unclear as to who would be the minister for information and broadcasting if Shibli Faraz is made petroleum minister. An official on condition of anonymity said the government was under immense pressure due to a price-hike especially the increase in prices of food items. The weekly meeting of the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) presided over by finance minister or secretary finance, failed to bring down food prices. In October 2020, the prime minister while admitting that there was a growing challenge of price hike in the country, promised to the people through his official social media account on Twitter that the government was already trying to find causes for the price hike. “From next week, we will have our strategy in place and action will begin using all state organizations and resources to bring down food prices,” the prime minister tweeted amid criticism from the major opposition parties. “Starting Monday in coming week, our government will use all the resources at the disposal of the state to bring down food prices. We are already examining causes of the price hikes: whether there is a genuine supply shortage or simply hoarding by mafias; smuggling, if any,” he added. The prime minister also directed the then adviser on finance Dr Shaikh to hold weekly meetings on inflation with a view to bringing down prices by taking on board provinces. However, there has been no let-up in food price hike.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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