ISLAMABAD: After spending a year in office, it appears Prime Minister Imran Khan still has not found his ‘dream team’. Even though he played around with his batting lineup less than five months ago, The Express Tribune has learned that another major federal cabinet reshuffle may be on the cards.
However, the changes being considered this time around will not be limited to a redistribution of portfolios. According to sources in the ruling party and its allies, the prime minister is expected to bring in a few new faces as well.
To begin with, Premier Imran is likely to fulfill promises pertaining to ministries that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had made to its allies in the federal government, such as Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid and Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan, the sources said. He also reportedly wants some young blood his squad, they added.
The portfolios most likely to be swapped around are defense, interior, education, information, and defence production, the sources told The Express Tribune. There is a high chance, they said, that Defence Minister Pervez Khattak will be given charge of the interior ministry, a portfolio he had expressed interest in when the PTI government formed its cabinet the first time around.
Minister for Defence Production Zubaida Jalal, meanwhile, is being considered for the education portfolio given her vast exposure in the field and her experience running the ministry during the reign of Gen Pervez Musharraf, the sources added. Although the PTI government has been satisfied with current Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood, Prime Minister Imran is still considering moving him to a different ministry, according to them.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan is another cabinet member who could receive a different portfolio since the appointment of Azam Khan Swati as the federal minister for parliamentary affairs has made his current position redundant, the sources said.
They added that Premier Imran also wants to bring senior PTI leader Dr Babar Awan back into the cabinet. Awan was originally appointed as the prime minister’s adviser on parliamentary affairs when the PTI was forming its government but stepped down on ‘moral grounds’ after he was summoned by the National Accountability Bureau in connection to the Nandipur reference.
But while Awan reportedly has his heart set on the law and justice ministry, sources said current Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem is still the prime minister’s favoured pick for the ministry. As such, they suggested that Awan may be asked to take over the information portfolio from Firdous Ashiq Awan. Whether Firdous will be allotted a new portfolio or removed from the cabinet is not clear as yet.
There is also speculation that the law and justice portfolio may be given to Parliamentary Secretary Malaika Bukhari, but such a move is subject to the verdict of the Islamabad High Court on a petition concerning her eligibility.
Among the newer younger faces being considered for cabinet membership, one favourite is PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s son Salik Hussain, sources said. They added, however, that PML-Q’s top leadership prefers to have Moonis Elahi in the cabinet. MQM Pakistan’s Aminul Haq is another young face thought to be a favourite for entry into cabinet. But the prime minister will make final decisions regarding the two after his return from the United States, said the sources.
Although speculation regarding changes in the federal cabinet has been circulating for quite a few days, the federal government has neither confirmed nor denied it officially. A federal minister that The Express Tribune reached out for comment said it is the prime minister’s prerogative to make changes in the cabinet. He hinted, however, that any such reshuffle, if it were to be decided, could take place at the beginning of October.
Political analysts, on the other hand, say any expansion of the federal cabinet would contradict Premier Imran’s own long-held views in favour of leaner cabinets.