• Major changes expected in federal cabinet before April 1
• Appointment of new chairman of PIA board on agenda of next cabinet meeting
ISLAMABAD: In a major reshuffle in the federal cabinet, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday removed Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and gave the portfolio to Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar as an additional charge.
It is expected that several unelected members of the federal cabinet may be replaced by some elected members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the shakeup in the cabinet will take place before coming Thursday.
Currently, the PM has 15 special assistants and five advisers.
“Yes, Mr Hafeez Shaikh has been removed and Hammad Azhar has been given additional charge of finance minister,” said Senator Shibli Faraz.
He hinted that the prime minister removed Mr Shaikh from the office of finance minister, as the former was not satisfied with the increasing inflation in the country. However, in a late night tweet, the senator took a U-turn and lauded the services of Mr Shaikh.
“Hafeez Shaikh is a gentle and hard working man. He served as adviser to the PM with commitment and nationalism. Despite difficulties, he contributed towards and played his role in improvement of the economy. We commend his efforts,” he tweeted.
The prime minister had also lauded Mr Shaikh-led economic team multiple times in recent past. Mr Shaikh is the second finance minister who has been replaced by the prime minister after Asad Umar.
Mr Faraz said though Hammad Azhar was given an additional charge of finance minister, he (Hammad) would continue to serve as finance minister on a long-term basis as the prime minister was quite satisfied and happy with Mr Azhar’s performance.
“In fact the prime minister wants young and fresh team to run the economic affairs of the country according to the ground realities,” explained the former minister for information. He added that the prime minister was quite concerned about unprecedented price hike in the country.
Mr Shaikh preferred to stay silent on the development despite Senator Faraz’s statement citing inflation as reason for the removal. Dawn also attempted to contact him for comments, but in vain.
Senator Faraz also confirmed that some changes were expected in the federal cabinet before coming Thursday when Prime Minister Khan would chair the federal cabinet meeting. “The cabinet will see shake-up before coming Thursday,” he added.
“Whatever decisions are being taken, these are solely coming from the prime minister and nobody actually knows about them,” said a senior PTI leader while talking to Dawn.
The sources said changes were expected in the ministries of Kashmir affairs, information, petroleum, energy, aviation, communication and maritime affairs.
According to the sources, Senator Faraz is likely to get the ministry of aviation or petroleum. “I am part of Imran Khan’s team and ready to take responsibility whatever he will give me,” Mr Faraz said, adding that information was one of the toughest ministries and no one should serve information minister more than a year.
It is expected that young leader Farrukh Habib, who was quite active and vocal to defend the PTI in its foreign funding case, may have a slot of state minister for information. The ministry of information could also be split into two parts — information and broadcast — and in that case the ministry for broadcast may be given to Fawad Chaudhry or Senator Faisal Javed, who has worked with an advertisement agency before coming into power.
Sheheryar Afridi may also be removed from the position of the chairman of Kashmir affairs committee and incumbent Minister for Food Security Syed Fakhar Imam is likely to replace him.
There are chances of replacement of Minister for Communications Murad Saeed for not meeting the expected targets of the ministry and the government. Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan, too, is expected to be replaced.
The replacement of Mr Shaikh is believed to be a ramification of the IMF programme.
On Dec 8, 2020 the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had set aside the notification regarding formation of the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation (CCoP).
The IHC, in its short order on a petition, ruled that unelected advisers and special assistants could not head government’s committees and subsequently set aside the notification of the CCoP, headed by Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.
The petition, which was submitted by lawmaker Rana Iradat Sharif Khan through his counsel Barrister Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha, had challenged the appointment of Mr Shaikh as chairman and Adviser to the PM on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood and Adviser to the PM on Institutional Reforms and Austerity Dr Ishrat Hussain as members of the CCoP.
The petition said: “Unlike ministers, advisers are not the part of the federal government, they do not take oath, they are not responsible to parliament in terms of Article 91(6) of the Constitution, they are not subject to the qualification and disqualification provided under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. Before and after their appointment, advisers are not bound to submit their statements of assets and liabilities…and they are not subject to any kind of scrutiny.”
“Appointing an Adviser with the status of a Minister does not empower him/her to act or function as a Minister or to perform functions under the Rules of Business 1973,” declared the court verdict.
Under the Constitution, Mr Shaikh who was in fact an adviser to the prime minister could serve minister only for six months (till coming June 11). The government made an attempt to get him elected as senator from Islamabad so that he could continue to serve as minster but he was defeated by the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s (PDM) joint candidate former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Meanwhile, the government issued agenda of the federal cabinet’s meeting to be chaired by the prime minister on Thursday.
According to the agenda, the meeting will discuss a proposal regarding introduction of electronic voting machines to make the election process fair and transparent.
Appointment of new chairman of the Pakistan International Airlines Corporation Limited and heads/CEOs on vacant posts in public organisations is also on the top agenda.
The maximum retail prices of Covid-19 vaccine and many other drugs will also be tabled in the meeting. A decision will be taken to expand Sehat Sahulat Programme to all permanent resident families of Islamabad and Gilgit-Baltistan on the basis of Nadra database. Besides, new subsidy for Pakistan Steel Mills is also on the agenda of the meeting. The meeting will also discuss utilization of three state buildings in Islamabad—Metropolitan Club at F-9 Park, Pak-China Friendship Centre and Fata House.
Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2021