Another ex-PPP man assigned task to fix economy

Shaukat Tarin appointed new finance minister while Hammad Azhar given portfolio of energy ministry

Rizwan Shehzad   April 16, 2021
Finance Minister Shuakat Tareen. PHOTO: FILE


Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday appointed former PPP senator Shaukat Tarin as the country’s new finance minister in yet another cabinet reshuffle during the third year of the PTI-led government.

Tarin, the second former PPP lawmaker picked as the finance minister, has replaced PTI’s recently appointed finance minister Hammad Azhar, who has now been given the portfolio of energy.

Before Hammad’s short stint, PPP’s ex-financial czar Abdul Hafeez Shaikh served as the finance minister before being unceremoniously sacked in last month – that too when the prime minister had claimed the economy was on course to recovery.

Though the premier has often blamed the previous governments – especially PPP and PML-N’s rule between 2008 and 2018 – for country’s economic crisis, it is surprising to see that he has chosen former lawmakers of the opposition party as rescuers. Both Tarin and Shaikh have served in the government of PPP’s ex-prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani between 2009 and 2011.

Since April 2019, when PTI stalwart Asad Umar was shown the door, frequent reshuffles have taken place against a backdrop of declining popularity of the ruling party because people have been expressing their disapproval with the government’s economic policies since it came to power in 2018.

Read more: PTI senator congratulates Fawad Chaudhry on ‘reappointment as information minister’

In other major changes, the prime minister has swapped the portfolios of science and information ministries between Fawad Chaudhry and Shibli Faraz. Fawad has been appointed the government’s spokesperson for the second time.

Shibli, who served as the information minister before his term as a senator ended in March, has been given the portfolio of the science and technology ministry.

In addition, PM Imran has appointed Khusro Bakhtiar the industries and production minister.

His portfolio of economic affairs has been handed over to former energy minister Omar Ayub.

Apart from Shibli and Hammad, all others have served in different capacities with the PPP, the PML-N and the PML-Q in the past.

Though PM Imran has been envisaging a cabinet reshuffle before the Senate elections, no new faces from PTI have so far been given a chance to sit in the cabinet.

Earlier, Shibli had told The Express Tribune that “three to four new people are expected to be given state-minister level portfolios”.

“Lawmakers in the National Assembly are likely to be given a chance,” he added.

Shibli and a couple of other ministers, who wished not to be named, had revealed that the premier was unhappy with the performance of several key ministers and decided that only those who could deliver would stay in the cabinet.

Also read: PTI senator congratulates Fawad Chaudhry on ‘reappointment as information minister’

Party sources said that performance and delivery were the only things that the premier was interested in as he felt exhausted after hearing excuses after excuses and inordinate delays in the completion of projects for one reason or another for a long time.

Among other things, the recent reshuffle is a result of growing frustration within the party circles as the premier believes that the ministers must start delivering without coming up with excuses anymore.

The premier had this realisation, the sources said, and made it clear that it was time to deliver.

Party insiders have long been saying that the premier frequently chairs meetings of spokespersons and issues directions to defend government policies at all the forums.

They also acknowledged that the narrative of simply blaming the previous governments was not yielding the desired results anymore in and outside parliament and it was time to back up the claims earlier made through performance.

Also read: ‘Cabinet reshuffle’ on the cards

Since 2018 when the PTI came to power, the PM has reshuffled the cabinet on a number of occasions.

Last time, he tweaked the cabinet was in December last year when he had elevated his finance adviser Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to the status of a full-fledged finance minister and brought high-profile political ally Sheikh Rashid Ahmed to the interior ministry’s helm.

PM Imran had picked Azam Khan Swati, who was serving as the minister of counter-narcotics, to replace Rashid as the railways minister.

Rashid’s predecessor at the interior ministry, Brig (retd) Ijaz Ahmed Shah, was given the narcotics control ministry, vacated by Swati.

Earlier, PM Imran had carried out a reshuffle of ministers in cabinet positions in April 2020, appointing Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar as the economic affairs minister after taking back charge of the national food security ministry from him two days after his name emerged as a major beneficiary in an investigation report into the sugar crisis.

In the major cabinet at that time, Syed Fakhar Imam was made the national food security minister, Hammad the industries minister and Swati was handed over the portfolio of the narcotics control ministry.

The premier had accepted the resignation of MQM-P’s Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui as the information technology and telecommunication minister, replacing him with fellow party man Aminul Haq .

Among other changes, Babar Awan was appointed the PM’s adviser on parliamentary affairs.

In April 2019, PTI stalwart Umar was sacked from the post of the finance minister. Earlier, Shaikh was named the adviser on finance, state minister for interior Shehryar Afridi was made the states and frontier regions (Safron) minister and Brig (retd) Ijaz Ahmed Shah was appointed the interior minister. Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who previously was the petroleum minister, was handed over the portfolio of the aviation ministry.


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