September 26, 2020

Unpacking Asad Umar’s political resurrection

“Long before you were born,” Asad Umar quipped, in response to my question about whether he would join the cabinet again, a few days after his unceremonious resignation as finance minister. “There was a movie called Love Story in which the lead actress is on her death bed from cancer and the lead actor, Ryan O’Neal says, strangers say goodbye, friends say, until we meet again. I still believe in the dream of Naya Pakistan.” Exactly twelve months later, it seems Naya Pakistan believes in the dream that is Asad Umar as much as he believes in the dream that is Naya Pakistan.

As far as political comebacks go, none has been more profound than the spectacular fall and rise of Asad Umar. One year ago, he appeared alone in front of the firing squad that is the Pakistani press to announce his resignation. Days before his political assassination, I interviewed him in New York City, right after his meetings with the IMF. He genuinely had no idea he was about to be fired when he would land back in Islamabad. He refused another cabinet position but was gracious in his exit, showing loyalty to Naya Pakistan’s cause and empathy for the new finance team.

Today, Asad Umar is everywhere. He’s leading Pakistan’s response to the biggest crisis the Indian Subcontinent has faced since Partition, Covid-19. He chairs the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC), a body that comprises provincial leaders, federal ministers and military generals to design and deliver a ‘whole government’ response to Covid-19. He’s also quietly leading the charge on reforming the 18th amendment, NAB ordinance and deals with Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

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