A day after a plethora of government ministers and spokespersons overwhelmingly denied any impending reshuffle in the federal cabinet, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday ousted long-time loyalist Asad Umar as finance minister, besides handing over key portfolios of interior and information to new faces. In the first major reshuffle since taking charge in August last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan has appointed Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh as adviser on finance. The portfolio of information minister has been taken away from Fawad Chaudhry, who has now been named as federal minister for science and technology. Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi has now been named as state minister for states and frontier regions (SAFRON).The PTI government has also announced a federal interior minister for the first time, with the portfolio – earlier held by the PM himself – going to Brig (r) Ijaz Shah, who was appointed as federal minister for parliamentary affairs just last month. Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who previously was the petroleum minister, has now been named the federal minister for aviation. The aviation portfolio was earlier held by Federal Minister for Privatisation Muhammad Mian Soomro.Azam Swati, who had resigned as federal minister for science and technology last year, has been appointed as federal minister for parliamentary affairs. According to a notification issued by the Cabinet Division, the prime minister has also appointed a trio of special assistants. The notification states that Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan has been made SAPM on information and broadcasting, while Dr Zafarullah Mirza has been assigned the portfolio of national health services, regulations and coordination. Meanwhile, Nadeem Babar will serve as SAPM on petroleum division.The cabinet overhaul came hours after Finance Minister Asad Umar announced to step down from his post and even refused to accept any ministerial position in the cabinet. “As part of a cabinet reshuffle PM desired that I take the energy minister portfolio instead of finance. However, I have obtained his consent to not take any cabinet position. I strongly believe @ImranKhanPTI is the best hope for Pakistan and inshallah will make a naya Pakistan,” Asad Umar posted on his Twitter handle. Soon after announcing his decision to step down via Twitter, Asad Umar held a press conference wherein he formally announced his resignation but expressed commitment to continue working for materialising the dream of a prosperous ‘Naya Pakistan’ under the leadership of Imran Khan. He said amid reshuffle news, he met with the prime minister last evening (Wednesday) and this morning (Thursday), convinced him on his decision to step down from the cabinet, instead of taking any other portfolio.“It was on exactly this date in 2012, when newspapers had announced that I was joining the PTI. Today seven years later, I am giving you this news. It has been a wonderful journey of seven years and I will continue this journey,” he said. “I need to thank the PTI’s youth for their enthusiasm. I need to say that when we came in, the economy was in a dangerous and sorry state, we were standing near a ditch, one move and we would have been in the ditch. The state of the economy is still not great [and] the next finance minister that comes in will still have a hard time,” he added. “What I want is that whoever comes in is supported when they make difficult decisions for the sake of the nation. We are about to go to the IMF (International Monetary Fund), we are about to present the budget. This is already too late, the next person should have come in earlier, at least a month ago,” he said. Asked whether there had been a conspiracy in the government to remove him, Umar did not give a definite answer. “I came into politics so that I could do something for the betterment of the country. I don’t know if there has been a conspiracy or not [to remove me] but all I know is that my ‘captain’ wanted to see me in the role of the energy minister. I did not think that would be a great idea so I refused,” he responded.He said the next budget will have the reflection of the IMF programme, saying it will not be a simple task for the new finance minister to prepare budget targeting 220 million people. He said extended fund facility with IMF has been negotiated and finalised on better terms and conditions and in the best interest of the national economy.He said his commitments were not affiliated with any position in the federal cabinet, adding he will continue his work as a worker for bringing reforms and change in the country according to the vision of Imran Khan. He said decision to remain out of federal cabinet is not any sort of protest as he will always be available to work for country’s interest whenever his party needed him. He also clarified that leaving his portfolio had nothing to do with the upcoming tax amnesty scheme.The incoming de facto minister at the finance ministry, Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, is an internationally renowned economist with more than 30 years of experience in economic policymaking, management and implementation. He served as Pakistan’s finance minister from 2010 to 2013 during the PPP government’s rule. In 2000-2002, he was minister of finance, planning and development of Sindh. He was then appointed as the minister for privatisation and investment in Pervez Musharraf’s administration.Eight months in, the PTI-led government has been rocked by a number of high-profile removals and departures. Among those fired or forced-out are: Asad Umar (finance minister), Fayazul Hassan Chohan (Punjab information and culture minister), Atif Mian (an economist who was asked to step down from the Economic Advisory Council), Muhammad Tahir (inspector general of police Punjab), Amjad Lateef (SNGPL managing director), Amin Rajput (SSGC managing director), Engineer MA Jabba, (Pakistan Steel Mills chairman) and Arshad Khan (PTV managing director).Among those who resigned during this period are: Nasir Khan Durrani (chairman of Punjab Commission on Police Reforms and Implementation), Babar Awan (adviser to prime minister on parliamentary affairs), Najam Sethi (chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board), Sahibzada Amir Jahangir (special assistant to prime minister on foreign investment), Dr Imran Rasul and Asim Ijaz Khawaja (part of Economic Advisory Council), Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan (governor of Gilgit-Baltistan), Aleem Khan (Punjab minister for local government), Azam Swati (federal minister for science and technology) and Jan Muhammad (Islamabad inspector general of police).