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Pakistan fires central bank, tax authority chiefs amid IMF talks
[ISLAMABAD] Pakistan's government removed the governor of the central bank and the head of the tax authority amid the nation's bailout negotiations with the International Monetary Fund.
Tariq Bajwa, chief of the State Bank of Pakistan, and Federal Board of Revenue chairman Mohammad Jehanzeb Khan were fired because of their "performance", Firdous Ashiq Awan, a special assistant to prime minister Imran Khan said by phone on Saturday. The removal of the two comes weeks after finance minister Asad Umar was asked to resign.
Former cricket star Mr Khan faces growing criticism from economists and opposition parties for mishandling the economy and delaying the IMF bailout since coming to power in August in a controversial national election. While Mr Khan has secured loans from friendly nations such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and China to help boost foreign reserves, the economy continued to falter amid balance-of-payments crisis and a depleted treasury.
Mr Khan appointed Abdul Hafeez Shaikh as his finance adviser two weeks ago after forcing the then finance minister Mr Umar to resign in a cabinet reshuffle. Mr Shaikh is now leading a team that is negotiating the 13th IMF support program since the 1980s. While the talks with the IMF stalled twice in the past over various disagreements, such as the exchange rate policy, Mr Shaikh said Friday he wants to develop a "reasonable" IMF plan.
Pakistan's credit score was downgraded by S&P Global Ratings in February, which cited weak economic outlook and the delay in securing an IMF bailout. The rupee weakened 26 per cent in 2018, and the benchmark KSE-100 Index declined for a second straight year.
State Bank of Pakistan's Mr Bajwa said he was in Islamabad for talks with the visiting IMF team when he was asked to resign, Dawn newspaper reported.