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AZIZ SHAUKAT (1949

AZIZ, SHAUKAT (1949- ) Pakistan’s 23rd prime minister and prominent in international financial affairs, Aziz was born in Karachi Shaukat Aziz was educated at the city’s St Patrick’s School and Rawalpindi’s Gordon College, from where he graduated in 1967 and returned to Karachi to join the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), from where he obtained masters degree in business administration He joined Citibank, Karachi, in 1969 and six years later moved into the international cadre of that institution He served in the Philippines, Jordan, Greece, the United States, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia His last assignment at Citibank before entering politics was as the head of its Private Bank group In November 1999, a month after the military take over of 12 October, Aziz was invited by General Pervez Musharraf to join the new cabinet as finance minister He held this position until 2004, becoming the longest serving finance minister in the country’s history During this period he successfully negotiated a series of agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), under which, in return for a significant flow of IMF assistance to the cash-strapped country, Pakistan agreed to adopt a program of macroeconomic stabilization The program was successfully implemented after Pakistan had stabilized its exchange rate, tamed fiscal deficits, reduced the rate of inflation, and accumulated more than US$12 billion of external reserves, enough to pay for more than 10 months of imports



Finance Minister Aziz also led the drive to reduce the burden of debt carried by the country This was done by getting the United States to forgive US$1 billion of debt owed to it by Islamabad, and by signing a debt rescheduling agreement with other Western donors under the aegis of the Paris Club These moves became possible after Pakistan began to be viewed in a favorable light in the post 9/11 war on terrorism They resulted in lowering debt service significantly in 2003-2004 Some of Aziz’s critics maintained that he should have persuaded the IMF to let Pakistan proceed on the parallel tracks of achieving macroeconomic stability and reviving growth Emphasis on the former meant that economic growth remained sluggish for the first three years of President Musharraf’s rule It picked up in 2002-2003 when the GDP increased by 51 percent per annum, followed by growth rates of 64 percent in 2003-2004, and 84 percent in 2004-2005 This growth spurt was helped by a sharp increase in external capital flows, particularly those originating from the Pakistanis living in the United States

The increase in growth did not, however, reduce the large pool of absolute poverty which the country had accumulated in the 15-year period since 1989 It was also apparent that a significant amount of incremental income, generated by growth, was going into the hands of the top 10 percent of the population Impressed by Aziz’s stewardship of the economy, General Musharraf engineered his appointment as Pakistan’s 23rd prime minister, in 2004 He escaped an assassination attempt on 30 July 2004, in which his driver was killed, at Fateh Jhang near Islamabad, before he assumed office In early 2005, the government uncovered a network of19 people belonging to the Jaishi-i-Mohammad and Jamaatal Furqan, two Islamic terrorist groups banned by the governments of Pakistan and the United States On 18 January 2005, the government announced the arrest of three brothers, Nisar Ahmad, Abdul Nasir, and Abdul Muneem, who were said to have been the masterminds of the assassination attempt They were linked with Amjad Farooqi, who was allegedly involved in the assassination attempt on President Pervez Musharraf The police said that the individuals arrested were deeply opposed to the Musharraf government’s Afghanistan and Iraq policies On 24 August 2004, Aziz was sworn in after winning seats in the National Assembly from two constituencies, one in Attock in northern Punjab, and the other in Tharparkar in southeastern Sindh He was also elected to lead the coalition of parties in the National Assembly, in which the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam) had the largest number of seats He retained the portfolio of finance in the large cabinet over which he now presided

The decision not to give up finance was motivated by his wish to retain a security blanket, in case he did not succeed in the political role that had been assigned to him Aziz was more active in the area of foreign affairs than in domestic politics He had little competition in the former area, but in domestic affairs, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, president of the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-i-Azam) (PML(Q)), played a more effective role The new prime minister traveled extensively, renewing the contacts he had made while serving as a senior official at Citibank

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