ISLAMABAD: Lashing out at the government’s economic policies, the opposition parties have termed the latest reshuffle in the cabinet “meaningless”, saying the problem does not lie in the cabinet, but in the person heading it.
The leaders of two major opposition parties — the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — on Saturday said the appointment of the fourth finance minister in three years proved that the economic policies of the government were a total failure and a confession by the rulers that they had failed to provide any economic relief to the masses.
The leaders of the PPP and the PML-N also expressed surprise over the timing of the change in the cabinet, saying each time the government had changed finance minister only weeks before presentation of federal budget.
The reaction from the opposition parties came on the day when President Dr Arif Alvi administered oath to the newly-appointed Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin and Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz at a ceremony at Aiwan-i-Sadr.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday changed portfolios of five ministers while bringing in Shaukat Tarin to replace finance minister Hammad Azhar, who had been recently given the charge in place of Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. Soon after coming to power in August 2018, the prime minister had appointed Asad Umar as finance minister, but he was removed from the office on April 18, 2019, only days before presentation of the first full-fledged federal budget by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government. Dr Hafeez Shaikh, who had replaced Mr Umar, was removed by the prime minister on March 29, two weeks after his defeat in the National Assembly on a Senate seat from Islamabad at the hands of joint opposition candidate Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani. The charge of the ministry was given to Hammad Azhar, who had delivered the budget speech in the National Assembly last year.
Like finance minister, the prime minister has also changed four information ministers in the last three years. Fawad Chaudhry, who was the first information minister of the PTI-led ruling coalition, has once again been given the charge of the ministry. Earlier, he was given the ministry when the PTI assumed power, but only to be removed from the post later. After his removal, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan headed the ministry as special assistant to the PM and then Shibli Faraz was appointed as information minister.
Commenting on the latest development, PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb said the cabinet reshuffle was “meaningless and inconsequential” because the real reasons for all the crisis faced by Pakistan was the “selected prime minister” sitting on top.
“A fish stinks from the head,” she said.
Ms Aurangzeb alleged that Imran Khan and his team had failed and now he was trying to “drag on his failed rule with borrowed people”.
“This government has changed four finance ministers and four information ministers while nothing has changed and the country is going deeper into crisis with inflation at 14 per cent, growth rate in negative domain, four million people left jobless and over 50m pushed under the poverty line,” she said.
Ms Aurangzeb said being a minister required management skills and if a minister could not manage one ministry how could he be successful in another. She said these ministers were the same people Imran Khan was praising a week ago and now they were dubbed ineffective.
She said no minister could perform in this government because the criteria of performance was not efficiency but how crudely and aggressively could a minister criticise the opposition.
The former information minister said Shaukat Tarin had strongly criticised PTI government’s policies on a TV show only a week ago and now he had been brought in to present a “disastrous budget.” She claimed that the government’s own members would oppose the budget.
“As long as the corrupt, incompetent, unqualified and mafia-patronised selected prime minister is not removed from the top, no amount of musical chairs of ministers under him would yield any result,” she concluded.
Similarly, in a statement, PPP parliamentary leader in the Senate Sherry Rehman said the government was running the most important ministry on “temporary basis” which was the main reason for the country’s deteriorating economic condition. She said the government had changed four finance ministers and five chairmen of the Federal Board of Revenue, which was a matter of concern.
PPP information secretary Shazia Marri, in her separate statement, said the country had faced an irreparable damage due to the “incompetence” of Imran Khan. She alleged that the “selected government” had put the country’s economic sovereignty at stake and the people of Pakistan considered themselves insecure in terms of economy and security.
The PPP leader said they would not let the government hand over the State Bank of Pakistan to the International Monetary Fund and would oppose this move at all fronts.
Referring to the government’s recent decision to ban the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, Ms Marri alleged that Imran Khan for the sake of politics had promoted extremism and was now himself facing it. To save the country from future threats, there was a need to remove the government as early as possible, she said.
Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2021