Who could be Pakistan's new finance minister?

Mehtab Haider
(L-R) Combo shows Chairman HBL Board of Directors, Sultan Ali Allana, PML-N Senator Ishaq Dar and  HBL President and CEO Muhammad Aurangzeb. — APP/HBL website
(L-R) Combo shows Chairman HBL Board of Directors, Sultan Ali Allana, PML-N Senator Ishaq Dar and  HBL President and CEO Muhammad Aurangzeb. — APP/HBL website

ISLAMABAD: As the negotiations among the two major political parties for the government formation in the Centre continue, the portfolio of the finance minister will be the key to the new setup as the country faces economic challenges.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have held five rounds of talks but they could not reach an agreement and will again meet today.

Whichever party forms the new government will ultimately have to approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a fresh deal as the country faces an economic crisis.

The portfolio of the upcoming finance minister will not be a bed of roses at all because he will have to tackle three immediate major challenges including the completion of the ongoing IMF programme then negotiating a staggered deal with the lender and thirdly presenting as well as getting approval of the next budget 2024-25 in line with the IMF programme conditions.

Ishaq Dar

If the PML-N forms the government in the Center then Ishaq Dar will be the top contender for the critical job but he will have to choose between the portfolio of the finance minister and Senate chairman.

Other contenders in the race to assume the slot of finance minister included Sultan Ali Allana and Muhammad Aurangzeb as both belong to the banking sector.

Allana was earlier considered for caretaker minister for finance twice in 2018 and 2023 but on both occasions, Dr Shamshad Akhtar managed to secure the position.

If Dar becomes the finance minister he will have to show a lenient attitude in negotiating a good deal with the IMF and will have to abandon his hard line on exchange rate policy and many other tough decisions to solace the IMF.

Secondly, Dar will have to accept the enhanced domain of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) in the policy-making process.

In case Dar becomes the choice for the Q Block, he might prefer to choose Tariq Bajwa as his advisor.

Azhar Bilal Kayani, who has won the National Assembly seat from Jhelum, might be given the portfolio of minister of state in any important economic or energy ministries.

Sultan Ali Allana

Sultan Ali Allana is currently serving as the chairman of the board of directors of Habib Bank Limited.

He is a career banking professional with nearly 40 years of experience in retail, corporate, and investment banking.

Allana is also a director of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) and has oversight responsibilities for AKFED’s investments in banking, insurance and aviation.

Allana holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from McGill University and the University of Wisconsin in Engineering and Management.

Muhammad Aurangzeb

Muhammad Aurangzeb joined the HBL on 30 April 2018 as the president and chief executive officer.

Before this, Aurangzeb was the CEO of JP Morgan’s Global Corporate Bank based in Asia, with a rich international banking experience of over 30 years in other senior management roles at ABN AMRO and RBS based in Amsterdam and Singapore.

Aurangzeb is the only Pakistani to be invited to the exclusive membership of the Global CEO Council organised by the WSJ/DowJones group and has been elected as the chairman of the Pakistan Banks’ Association and Director of the Pakistan Business Council.

Aurangzeb received his BS and MBA degrees from The Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania).