Pukhtun Nama Analysis
As the head of the Ministry of Finance, Abdul Hafeez Sheikh is in the daily news for one reason or another. In recent days, his name has repeatedly appeared in the media. This was due to his involvement in the National Finance Commission and his appointment as its head. Many opposition leaders thought the appointment was unconstitutional. The Balochistan High Court also heard a petition declaring his appointment unconstitutional. As a result of this court decision, the federal government has removed his name from the commission.
Hafeez Sheikh has become Federal Minister / Finance Advisor for the second time in ten years. Interestingly, he has been given the ministry of finance by two governments that are considered to be at odds with each other in terms of their ideologies and policies.
He belongs to Jacobabad district of Sindh. His father Ghulam Nabi Sheikh is one of the founding leaders of the PPP. He was an active social activist and district president of the Pakistan People’s Party under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Hafeez Sheikh’s grandfather Abdul Hakim Sheikh was a teacher by whose name a school still exists in Jacobabad.
Hafeez Sheikh received his early education in his home province, after which he went to the United States for higher education. There he earned a master’s degree and a PhD in economics from Boston University. After graduating, he began teaching at the famous Harvard University in the United States.
He left Harvard in the late 1990s to join the World Bank. Shortly afterwards, he was appointed head of the World Bank’s program in Saudi Arabia. He has been a World Bank advisor in many countries, including Bangladesh, Malaysia, Kuwait and Sri Lanka. He has also written a book on the privatization situation in Argentina.
In 2000, under former President Pervez Musharraf, he was made Sindh’s finance minister. Working in this capacity, he improved tax collection in the province and freed Sindh from the overdraft of the State Bank of Pakistan.
In 2003, he was appointed Advisor to the Prime Minister on Privatization and Investment. He held the post of Prime Minister of Zafarullah Jamali, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and then Shaukat Aziz. Meanwhile, he was also elected a member of the Senate on a PML-Q ticket.
Hafeez Sheikh resigned from the cabinet of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in 2006. When Shaukat Tareen, the finance minister in the PPP government, resigned in 2010, Hafeez Sheikh was elected senator and made finance adviser in Yousuf Raza Gilani’s cabinet.
After the expiration of the term of the government, he went abroad and returned to Pakistan once again after the general elections in 2018. This time, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government replaced him with its first finance minister, Asad Umar, in April 2019.
As Minister / Finance Adviser, Hafeez Sheikh has always been criticized for being ‘imposed’ by international financial institutions, not ‘local’ ones.
As Musharraf’s privatization adviser, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited’s (PTCL) deal with the UAE-based company Etisalat has also been called a failure. Under the agreement, Etisalat owes Pakistan dollars 800 million, which has not yet been received.
Hafeez Sheikh is considered to have a good understanding of the global financial bureaucracy. Under Musharraf, he successfully privatized 34 other state-owned enterprises, raising US 5 billion dollars for the government.
Hafeez Sheikh’s participation in three of the last four governments where his personal ability can play an important role
One of the key elements there is the thinking of the establishment that an important sector like the economy should be entrusted to an economist instead of being handed over to political hands.But this experiment was never completely successful.
During Benazir Bhutto’s rule in 1988, many economists from her economic adviser VA Jaffery to Shahid Javed Burki, Shaukat Aziz, Asad Umar and now Hafeez Sheikh have been Pakistan’s Minister / Finance Advisor, but none of them are experts. Even real economic reforms in the country and sustainable, lasting and far-reaching changes in the country’s economy could not be brought.
On the contrary, almost all of them are accused of being appointed at the behest of international financial institutions so that they do not face any political obstacles in implementing their economic policies in Pakistan.