Asad Umar officially relieved of finance portfolio, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh appointed adviser

Updated April 19, 2019

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Finance Minister Asad Umar speaks to the media during a press conference, after stepping down from his ministry, in Islamabad on Thursday. — AFP
Finance Minister Asad Umar speaks to the media during a press conference, after stepping down from his ministry, in Islamabad on Thursday. — AFP

A day after major reshuffling in the federal cabinet, an updated list of federal ministers, ministers of state and advisers and special assistants to the prime minister was issued on Friday.

Cabinet Division list as on April 19, 2019. ─ Provided by author
Cabinet Division list as on April 19, 2019. ─ Provided by author

Observers had been quick to notice that the name of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government's erstwhile finance minister, Asad Umar, was left on the initial list issued by the Cabinet Division with his portfolio intact. However, the notice making his resignation official was issued later in the day, after the president accorded his approval to it.

The president also okayed the appointment of Abdul Hafeez Shaikh as adviser to the prime minister on finance, revenue and economic affairs with the status of a federal minister.

Health Minister Amir Mehmood Kiyani, who had also been in hot waters due to a recent controversy over increase in prices of medicines, was also removed from his position after receiving presidential assent.

The three notifications, for the resignation, new appointment and removal, were issued side by side by the Cabinet Division later in the day.

Major reshuffle

Prime Minister Imran, in major changes to his cabinet on Thursday, had removed several big shots from key positions — including erstwhile minister for information Fawad Chaudhry — and handed over important portfolios to newcomers.

Umar had announced on Thursday that he was stepping down as finance minister after he "convinced" the prime minister that he did not wish to remain a part of the cabinet.

"As part of a cabinet reshuffle, [the] prime minister desired that I take the energy portfolio instead of finance," Umar had said. "However, I have obtained his consent to not take any cabinet position."

Chaudhry, who only three days ago had “categorically” rejected reports about any changes in the federal cabinet, has now been given the portfolio of science and technology. Dr Firdaus Ashiq Awan, who joined the PTI days before 2018 elections after quitting the PPP, has been appointed special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting.

The PTI government also appointed its first full-fledged interior minister; retired Brig Ijaz Ahmed Shah, who had taken oath as minister for parliamentary affairs earlier this month, was named interior minister. The induction of Shah, a former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief, however, had already sparked controversy — for the opposition in general and for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in particular — because before her assassination in December 2007, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had claimed that he was among the people who had hatched a conspiracy to kill her.

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Meanwhile, Shehryar Afridi was made minister for states and frontier regions — the portfolio which was previously held by Ali Amin Gandapur.

Another major change in the cabinet was that of minister for petroleum and natural resources Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who has now been given the charge of the aviation division. The division was earlier functioning under Mohammed Mian Soomro, who also holds the portfolio of privatisation.

Nadeem Babar, who is currently the chairman of the Task Force on Energy, has been made the PM's special assistant on petroleum division.

Former minister for science and technology Azam Swati has made a comeback and has been appointed as minister for parliamentary affairs — his name, however, was also missing from Friday's list.

Later in the day, a notification was issued stating the president's approval for his appointment. The notice also stated that Swati was administered the oath of office by the president on April 19.

Swati had to resign last year when he was accused of using his political influence in getting the Islamabad police chief transferred for releasing his neighbours, who had been arrested by police on his complaint that they had trespassed his farmhouse.