By Muhammad Luqman
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has made a big shake up in the federal cabinet after some of his close aides and ministers were named in the investigation report regarding the sugar and wheat flour crisis that hit the South Asian nation three months ago.
Federal Minister for National Food Security , Khusro Bakhtiar resigned on Monday. However, he was handed over the Ministry of Economic Affairs minister.
— Radio Pakistan (@RadioPakistan) April 6, 2020
In a series of announcements, the government said that Bakhtiar would be replaced with Chairman Parliamentary Kashmir Committee, Syed Fakhar Imam. Meanwhile, the former Economic Affairs minister, Hammad Azhar, will head the Ministry of Industries.
Billionaire Senator Azam Swati has been appointed as Minister for Narcotics Control Division while leader of Karachi’s regional party, MQM, Aminul Haq will lead the Telecommunications Division.
I am grateful to my leader @ImranKhanPTI for entrusting me with the portfolio of Industries.
This is a heavy responsibility, especially during these challenging times. May Allah give us all the strength & ability to overcome all difficulties & lay foundations of a Naya Pakistan.
— Hammad Azhar (@Hammad_Azhar) April 6, 2020
Hammad Azhar’s new post as Industries minister appears to overlap with the ambit of Abdul Razak Dawood, adviser to the PM on Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production and Investment. However, the government has not issued any statement on whether Dawood’s role would change following Azhar’s appointment.
“I am grateful to my leader Imran Khan for entrusting me with the portfolio of Industries. This is a heavy responsibility, especially during these challenging times. May Allah give us all the strength and ability to overcome all difficulties and lay foundations of a Naya Pakistan,” Azhar posted on Twitter after the cabinet shake up.
The government announced that Prime Minister Minister Imran Khan Khan had accepted the resignation of MQMs Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui as federal minister for information technology, which he had submitted in January.
Azam Swati previously served as Parliamentary Affairs Minister, and has now been appointed the Narcotics Control Minister. Babar Awan has been appointed the Adviser for Parliamentary Affairs, becoming the de facto minister for the post.
Separately, former Punjab government spokesman Shahbaz Gill posted on Twitter that businessman Jahangir Khan Tareen had been removed as the chairperson of the Task Force on Agriculture “in light of findings of sugar and wheat inquiry report.” However, Tareen responded within minutes, claiming he had never served as the chairman. “I was never chairman of any task force,” he posted on Twitter, demanding to be shown a notification that proved he had served in that role.
The reshuffle comes two days after the Federal Investigation Agency released reports on the sugar and wheat crises that had been plaguing Pakistan at the end of last year and beginning of this year. The report on the sugar crisis named Bakhtiar, then the minister for national food security, as a beneficiary, in addition to Tareen, a PTI leader.
According to the reports PTI’s Tareen, Bakhtiar and PML-Q’s Monis Elahi and their relatives were involved in a scam that drove up the prices of the basic commodities. On Monday, the Prime Minister Imran Khan said he would wait for a detailed forensic report—due by the end of the month—before taking action against anyone.
In the light of the report, Punjab province’s food Minister Samiullah Chaudhary has tendered resignation while a number of bureaucrats including former Secretary Food, Naseem Sadiq have been removed their offices.