Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday appointed Hafeez Shaikh as the federal minister for finance, while Sheikh Rashid was handed the interior ministry portfolio in yet another cabinet shakeup, Radio Pakistan reported.
Rashid has been replaced by Azam Swati as the railways minister while retired Brig Ijaz Ahmed Shah, who earlier held the interior ministry portfolio, has been appointed as minister for narcotics control.
This is the fourth federal cabinet shakeup in less than three years of the PTI government.
The reshuffle comes days after the Islamabad High Court ruled that unelected advisers and special assistants could not head government’s committees and subsequently set aside the notification of the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation, headed by Hafeez. The move was seen as a major blow to government's privatisation efforts that were being spearheaded by unelected members of the federal cabinet.
Though Hafeez is not an elected member of Parliament, according to Article 91 (9) of the Constitution, any individual who is not part of the Parliament can be a minister for six months. However, in order to become a minister again, the unelected member should be elected to one of the two Houses of Parliament.
"A minister who for any period of six consecutive months is not a member of the National Assembly shall, at the expiration of that period, cease to be a minister and shall not before the dissolution of that Assembly be again appointed a minister unless he is elected a member of that Assembly," reads Article 91 (9).
"Nothing in this clause shall apply to a minister who is a member of the Senate," the clause adds.
The federal cabinet has been reshuffled four times since the PTI came to power. The first major reshuffle came in April 2019 — less than a year after the party came to power — when Hafeez was appointed as the adviser to the prime minister on finance following Asad Umar's resignation as finance minister. The premier had also appointed Shah as the interior minister and brought in Firdous Ashiq Awan as special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, among other changes.
The second shakeup came in November 2019, when Umar was brought back to the federal cabinet as planning minister while Khusro Bakhtiar was appointed as minister for economic affairs. The reshuffle came two days after the Federal Investigation Agency team released reports on the sugar crisis and beneficiaries of subsidies obtained by the industry's bigwigs. The report on the sugar crisis named Bakhtiar, then the minister for national food security, as a beneficiary.
Earlier this year, the prime minister removed Awan as special assistant and appointed retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa instead. Senator Shibli Faraz was appointed as the information minister.