Pakistan’s finance minister steps down ahead of IMF deal

Pakistan’s finance minister Asad Umar has stepped down from cabinet, he announced Thursday, ahead of securing a crucial bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund. (File/Reuters)
Updated 18 April 2019

Pakistan’s finance minister steps down ahead of IMF deal

  • Pakistan has gone to the IMF repeatedly since the late 1980s, and last received an IMF bailout in 2013 to the tune of $6.6 billion
  • Experts have warned that any tough measures imposed by the IMF could impact Khan’s grand plans for an Islamic welfare state in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s finance minister Asad Umar has stepped down from cabinet, he announced Thursday, ahead of securing a crucial bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund.
Umar, one of cricketer-turned-premier Imran Khan’s most powerful ministers, had been entrusted with the task of negotiating the long-delayed bailout as Pakistan’s cash-strapped economy faces a balance-of-payments crisis.
“As part of a cabinet reshuffle, PM desired that I take the energy minister portfolio instead of finance,” Asad Umar tweeted.
“However, I have obtained his consent to not take any cabinet position. I strongly believe @ImranKhanPTI is the best hope for Pakistan and inshallah (God willing) will make a naya (new) pakistan,” he wrote.

There was no immediate statement from Khan’s office or confirmation of who would replace Umar, and it was not clear how Umar’s absence would impact the deal.
Pakistan has gone to the IMF repeatedly since the late 1980s, and last received an IMF bailout in 2013 to the tune of $6.6 billion.
Umar has said often that a deal is coming soon, and that it will be the last one.
Earlier this week Hammad Azhar, a state minister for revenue, tweeted that Umar had reached an “agreement in principle” on an IMF deal during a recent trip to Washington, with the agreement to be finalized later this month.
Experts have warned that any tough measures imposed by the IMF could impact Khan’s grand plans for an Islamic welfare state in Pakistan.
Forecasts by the IMF and World Bank suggest the Pakistani economy is likely to grow between 4.0 and 4.5 percent for the fiscal year ending June 2019, compared to 5.8 percent growth in the last fiscal year.
The United Arab Emirates, Pakistan’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and a major investment sources, recently offered $3 billion to support Pakistan’s battered economy.
Islamabad also secured $6 billion in funding from Saudi Arabia and struck a 12-month deal for a cash lifeline during Khan’s visit to the Kingdom in October.
It has also received billions of dollars in Chinese loans to finance ambitious infrastructure projects.


Man suspected of killing wife, three children in Australia fire

Updated 20 February 2020

Man suspected of killing wife, three children in Australia fire

  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was ‘shocked, saddened and devastated’ by the tragedy
  • A passer-by who tried to intervene in the situation was also taken to hospital to be treated for facial burns

SYDNEY: An ex-rugby league player is suspected of murdering his three children and estranged wife in Australia by burning them alive inside their car, in what police described as one of the most horrific incidents they have encountered.

Officers said 31-year-old Hannah Clarke died in a Brisbane hospital on Wednesday just hours after her three children aged three, four and six were found dead in the car on a suburban street.

Her husband, Rowan Baxter, who also died, allegedly approached the vehicle and doused it with petrol before setting it alight, The Australian newspaper reported.

The paper said Clarke jumped from the burning car and rolled on the ground, saying “he’s poured petrol on me.”

Officials said she was rushed to hospital with severe burns following the “horrific” incident but later succumbed to her injuries.

Baxter, a 42-year-old former rugby league player for the New Zealand Warriors, was believed to be in the burning vehicle but got out and died on a footpath.

Queensland Police detective inspector Mark Thompson said Thursday that Baxter died as a result of burns and a self-inflicted wound.

“Information that’s to hand has led us to believe that the Baxter children and Hannah Clarke were killed and I don’t believe there’s any suspicious circumstances around the death of Rowan Baxter,” he said.

Clarke’s sister-in-law, Stacey Roberts, set up a fundraiser to pay for funeral costs and support Hannah’s parents, who she said had “exhausted themselves to try and help Hannah escape this monster.”

“All those who knew Hannah or had even just met her once would know how much of a beautiful soul she was. Her children (were) her life,” Roberts posted on Facebook.

The page has so far raised almost Aus$100,000 ($67,000).

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was “shocked, saddened and devastated” by the tragedy, which has led to an outpouring of grief on social media.

“Hannah and her three children were so senselessly and maddeningly murdered in what has occurred in a terrible act of violence and it just grieves our hearts terribly today,” he said.

Natasha Stott Despoja, a former senator and chair of anti-violence group Our Watch, called for stronger action to address violence against women in Australia, which she described as a “national emergency.”

“I know people want change, people are angry & sad today,” she tweeted. “How long before we stop this slaughter in our suburbs?“

A passer-by who tried to intervene in the situation was also taken to hospital to be treated for facial burns, a Queensland Ambulance Service spokesperson said.

The emergency responders who attended the scene have been stood down from their duties and will receive support, he added.