Shibli Faraz appointed new information minister, Asim Bajwa replaces Firdous Ashiq Awan

Updated 28 Apr 2020

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PTI leader Shibli Faraz (L) and retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa. — APP/Instagram
PTI leader Shibli Faraz (L) and retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa. — APP/Instagram

PTI Senator Shibli Faraz has been appointed the new information minister of the country, federal minister Fawad Chaudhry and state-run Pakistan Television announced on Monday.

Meanwhile, retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa has been appointed as special assistant to the prime minister (SAPM) for information, a title previously held by Firdous Ashiq Awan.

"The prime minister ... has been pleased to appoint Lt Gen (Rtd) Asim Saleem Bajwa as special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, in [an] honorary capacity, with immediate effect," a notification issued by the Cabinet Division said.

A second notification read: "The prime minister has been pleased to remove Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan from the office of special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, with immediate effect."

The announcement was first made by Chaudhry, the minister for science and technology who earlier held the information portfolio.

The reason for the changes announced was not immediately clear. It also remains unclear if Awan will be assigned another portfolio.

Taking to Twitter, Awan thanked Prime Minister Imran Khan for trusting her, saying it was his prerogative to decide which member of his team will serve on what position. "I respect his decision," she added.

She also refuted news reports aired by some TV channels claiming she was removed from her office due to alleged corruption, terming them "concocted" and "baseless".

"As a political worker, my objective is the country's progress and the welfare of the people, which will continue under the PM's leadership," Awan wrote, congratulating Faraz and Bajwa on their appointments.

Who is Shibli Faraz?

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Faraz — who was appointed as the leader of the house in Senate in August 2018 — was elected to the upper house in March 2015 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He is the son of acclaimed (late) poet Ahmed Faraz.

Faraz, a former banker, is chairman of the Senate’s standing committee on commerce and special committee on circular debt. He is also a member of the committee on planning and development and reforms, water resources, statistics, and climate change and a member of the parliamentary committee on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

He did a Master’s in International Relations from the University de Los Andes (Colombia) in 1994.

Ex-army spokesman to represent govt

Retired Lt Gen Bajwa had served as Commander Southern Command before his retirement. He remained the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) from 2012 to 2016.

In November last year, Bajwa was appointed by the government as the chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority (CPECA), which comes under the planning and development ministry.

Firdous Ashiq Awan: PPP stalwart-turned-PTI spokesperson

Firdous Ashiq Awan, who was a PPP stalwart before she joined the PTI in May 2017, was named the SAPM on information and broadcasting as part of a major cabinet reshuffle in April 2019, eight months after Prime Minister Imran took office.

Awan, along with her husband, was a staunch supporter of the PPP until party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari consolidated his control over the party.

She began her political career in 1990 with a focus on improving the healthcare system, and founded the Society for Health and Development and Exchange.

In 2002, she was elected to NA-286 on a reserved seat for women. In 2008, she successfully contested the NA-111 poll and was appointed the federal minister for population welfare. She later served as the information minister in the PPP government.

In 2013, she again contested the NA-111 poll but this time was unsuccessful. In 2015, she resigned as the PPP Punjab vice president before joining the PTI two years later.

Reactions

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari congratulated Faraz on becoming the information minister, terming him "an old PTI member and a dignified man with gravitas".

Referring to Faraz as an "honourable and dignified man", Fawad Chaudhry on Twitter said the senator and the "brilliant" Bajwa will both make "a great team".

Former Pakistan ambassador to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi in a tweet said the changes were a "good move by the government".