Hammad Azhar replaces Hafeez Shaikh as finance minister

More changes expected as PM set to reshuffle federal cabinet

ISLAMABAD: After the defeat in the Senate election and much pressure on the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) over increasing inflation, the government has finally decided to remove Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh from the post of finance minister.

He would be replaced by Minister of Industries Hammad Azhar.

According to sources, since Shaikh, after losing the bid for a Senate seat to Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) Yousuf Raza Gillani, was asked to continue as finance minister by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the development on Monday was unexpected. However, the news about the reshuffling of cabinet members had been making the rounds over the past week.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Senator Shibli Faraz – who has yet to take oath as a minister again after the Senate election – while confirming the development has claimed that Prime Minister Imran has decided to bring in a new team.

However, no notification in this regard has been issued.

Prime Minister Imran “gave the portfolio of finance to Hammad Azhar who is a young and able minister so that he devises policies according to the ground realities of Pakistan and the poor get relief,” Faraz said, adding that he did not know about Sheikh’s future in the government. The federal minister also hinted further likely changes in the cabinet will be disclosed by Tuesday.

According to Faraz, the prime minister has formed a new economic team to provide relief to the masses. “PM Imran wants to bring down inflation in the country.”

Further changes are expected in the federal cabinet. Faisal Javed Khan and Farrukh Habib will also be given important ministries. The two are likely to be given slots of minister of state, for which two new ministries will be set up separately from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Meanwhile, Shibli Faraz could be given the Ministry of Petroleum and the Ministry of Information once again to Fawad Chaudhry.

The sources said that ministries of Murad Saeed, Fawad Chaudhry and Zulfi Bukhari could also be shuffled.

Murad can also be given the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis while Zulfi Bukhari can be given Science and Technology and Fawad be given the reigns of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Special Assistant Arbab Shehzad could be removed and sent home.

Sources said that Faraz may also be given the Ministry of Communications.

They said that the coalition parties Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM) and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) have also been consulted in the federal cabinet. The final decision on reshuffle in the federal cabinet will be taken by Prime Minister Imran.

Shaikh, who enjoyed the status of minister since December as the government appointed him as a federal minister under Article 91 (9) of the Constitution. As per the article, after becoming minister, he needed to become a member of parliament within six months.

While Shaikh had been given the party ticket for the Senate, he ended losing to the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) joint candidate Gillani.

Shaikh was also photographed meeting cordially with the PDM candidate, and experts believe this could have played a major role in this decision.

Following his loss, Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan had questioned how Shaikh could be in the office as an unelected member of the cabinet after losing the Senate election.

“In truly democratic countries people voluntarily resign from the public offices if [they are] not elected,” the chief justice observed and added the establishment of the democracy warranted actions, not mere words.

“It seems Shaikh would hold his bag and just depart once the job is done,” he remarked.

The CJ was hearing a petition challenging the appointment of all advisers and special assistants to Prime Minister Imran.

Reacting to the development, PPP Chairman Bilawal declared it a “victory of PDM”.

It may be recalled that last week, the premier had asked his special assistant on petroleum Nadeem Babar and the secretary petroleum to step down in order to ensure transparency in the fuel crisis probe.

The premier was expected to make further changes in the federal cabinet as he was reportedly not happy with the performance of some key ministers’ performance.

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Ghulam Abbas
The writer is a member of the staff at the Islamabad Bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]
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