ISLAMABAD: Exactly after seven months, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday brought back his former finance minister Asad Umar to the federal cabinet as minister for planning, development and reforms.

Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiyar, who has been holding the planning portfolio since the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf came to power, was made petroleum minister after slicing the portfolio of Energy Minister Omar Ayub Khan.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Infor­mation Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan revealed the reshuffle in the cabinet through a tweet, saying Mr Umar has replaced Mr Bakhtiyar as minister for planning and development, while the latter has been given the petroleum portfolio.

In fact, Omar Ayub was holding two ministries — petroleum and energy — and after the reshuffle he will retain the energy ministry only.

An inside source said the Chinese authorities engaged under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) had expressed concern over the working of key ministers relating to communications, railways and planning and development. “Chinese are not even ready to talk to these ministers because of their inability to make progress on timelines,” the source added.

Prime Minister Khan had in September hinted that a new responsibility might be given to Asad Umar. According to sources, the prime minister had in a recent cabinet meeting told Mr Umar that he would be given a bigger responsibility in the near future.

Mr Umar served as finance minister for nine months. He assumed the charge on Aug 20 last year and left the ministry on April 18 this year. At the time of his removal from the finance ministry, the prime minister had offered him the petroleum portfolio, but he declined and decided to work for the party while sitting outside the cabinet.

When contacted, Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said the prime minister had decided that Mr Asad would have a new assignment. “In fact, the prime minister wanted to bring Asad Umar back to the cabinet,” he added.

A close aide to the prime minister, who did not want to be named, said Mr Khan wanted to give the planning ministry to Mr Asad because the latter was good at project management and it was hoped that he would expedite work on the CPEC projects.

Asked why the planning portfolio had been taken from Khusro Bakhtiyar, he said that in fact the prime minister had some reservations over slow progress on the CPEC.

Prime Minister Khan had in October hinted at some changes in the federal cabinet after some leaders, during a meeting of the PTI parliamentary party, complained about “non-cooperation” by some ministers in addressing people’s grievances.

Talking to Dawn, Asad Umar said the official notification about his inclusion in the cabinet being a minister for planning and development would be issued on Tuesday and after that he would take the oath of his office.

A meeting of the federal cabinet will be held on Tuesday (today) and it is expected that Mr Umar, after meeting all formalities in the morning, can join the meeting which usually starts at 12 noon and continues till late evening.

Asked why the prime minister chose him for the planning and development ministry, Mr Umar said: “It was not only the PM’s but also my desire to hold this ministry.”

He said that since the CPEC had entered its second phase from infrastructure to agriculture, social sector and industry, it required robust approach so as how to gain maximum benefits for the sectors and passed them on to the people.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2019