Hammad Azhar given energy ministry, Shaukat Tarin made finance minister in latest cabinet reshuffle

Published April 16, 2021
This combination file photo shows Hammad Azhar (L) and Shaukat Tarin (R). — APP
This combination file photo shows Hammad Azhar (L) and Shaukat Tarin (R). — APP

In yet another shuffle in the federal cabinet on Friday, Hammad Azhar has been removed from the office of finance minister less than a month after his appointment and replaced by ex-PPP minister Shaukat Fayyaz Ahmed Tarin who was also given the additional portfolio of revenue.

Newly appointed Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry confirmed the news of the cabinet reshuffle to Dawn.

Azhar, who was appointed as finance minister less than a month ago, has now been given the portfolio of energy.

Meanwhile, former energy minister Omar Ayub has been made the minister for economic affairs. Former information minister Shibli Faraz, who was replaced by Fawad Chaudhry a day earlier, has been made the minister for science and technology — the office previously headed by Chaudhry.

Khusro Bakhtiar has been made the minister for industries and production in place of Azhar.

Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan had removed then finance minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and given the portfolio to Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar as an additional charge.

Faraz had said at the time that 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 Azhar's performance.

Earlier this month, sources in the government had told Dawn that the government had made an offer to Tarin to join the federal cabinet as special assistant or adviser to the PM, but he linked his joining the federal cabinet with the decision on an accountability reference that he has been facing for nearly a decade.

He had said he would not accept the offer, which he claimed had been made for a second time, unless a case against him filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was disposed of.

The new finance minister is a cousin of senior PTI leader Jehangir Tareen, who is also facing inquiries in the sugar scandal of the present government.

Cabinet shakeups

The federal cabinet has been reshuffled at least six 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 Sheikh was appointed as the adviser to the prime minister on finance following Asad Umar's resignation as finance minister.

At the same time, the premier had also appointed retired Brig Ijaz Ahmed 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.

In April last 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.

Later in December, the premier appointed Hafeez Shaikh as federal minister for finance, while Sheikh Rashid was handed the interior ministry portfolio in yet another cabinet shakeup.

Rashid was replaced by Azam Swati as the railways minister while retired Brig Shah, who earlier held the interior ministry portfolio, was appointed as minister for narcotics control.

A little over three months later, Hafeez Sheikh was shown the door and the then Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar was given the additional charge of the finance ministry.

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