In yet another rejig of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday elevated his Adviser Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh as the full-fledged Minister for Finance and brought high-profile political ally Sheikh Rashid Ahmed to the interior ministry’s helm.
The prime minister picked Azam Khan Swati, who was serving as the minister of counter-narcotics, to replace Rashid as the railways minister, while Rashid’s predecessor at the interior ministry, Brig (retd) Ijaz Ahmed Shah, was given the narcotics control ministry, vacated by Swati.
Hafeez Shaikh was sworn in at a ceremony on Friday where President Arif Alvi administered the oath. With the economy reeling under Covid-induced recession, the prime minister has reshuffled the cabinet hoping to instil a new energy and sense of purpose in the government.
“President, on the advice of the Prime Minister, has been pleased to appoint Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh as Federal Minister. He will hold the portfolio of Finance, as allocated by the Prime Minister,” read the Cabinet Division’s notification issued before the oath-taking ceremony.
Soon after the reshuffle, Rashid and Ijaz called on the prime minister. Officially, a statement from the interior ministry stated that Ijaz had requested the prime minister that he did not want to continue as interior minister due to his health issues and recent demise of his brothers.
However, unofficially, according to sources, Rashid’s selection has been made to deal with the 11-party opposition alliance -- Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) -- which has embarked upon an anti-government campaign.
Shaikh would return to the finance ministry in a decade after serving on the same post in the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) government.
Rashid, the head of the Awami Muslim League (AML) – the party with a single seat from NA-55 Rawalpindi — is holding 15th portfolio since 1991, when he was made minister for industries in the first PML-N government led by Nawaz Sharif.
The cabinet reshuffle comes days after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) ruled that neither the special assistants to prime minister (SAPMs) and advisers were members of the cabinet nor could they take part in the cabinet proceedings.
“The Special Assistant to the Prime Minister is not a Minister of State or a Federal Minister but only enjoys the status for the purposes of perks and privileges. He cannot address the parliament nor has any executive authority vested in him. He also is not a Member of the Cabinet and cannot take part in the proceedings of the same,” the IHC ruled.
The judgment stated that adviser to prime minister was a constitutional post and there could be maximum of five advisers; and again the conferring of status of federal minister on the advisers was only for the purposes of perks and privileges and did not make him or her a federal minister as such.
“An Adviser to the Prime Minister is not Member of the Cabinet and cannot participate in the proceedings, hence he can also not be a Member or even chair the Committee of the Cabinet. He can address the parliament but cannot participate in the voting process,” the court order read.
In a cabinet of 51, there were 5 advisers and 16 special assistants to the prime minister. The IHC decision affected Hafeez Shaikh, Commerce Adviser Razak Dawood, Institutional Reforms Adviser Dr Ishrat Husain and SAPMs, Nadeem Baber, Tabish Gauhar and Dr Waqar Masood.
Though Hafeez got the finance ministry’s portfolio, the fate of other advisers still hangs in balance. Political commentators said that at a single stroke, the prime minister has tried to solve many of the problems being faced by his government, especially, after the IHC order.
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