Federal cabinet reshuffled

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday reshuffled his cabinet with addition of new members including ministers and advisers, besides changing the portfolios of a few.

The portfolio of Federal Minister for National Food Security was given to Syed Fakhar Imam, replacing Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiyar who was appointed as Federal Minister for Economic Affairs. Hammad Azhar was appointed Federal Minister for Industries, Azam Sawati as Federal Minister for Narcotics Control and Amin-ul-Haq as Federal Minister for Telecom. Babar Awan was appointed Adviser to Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs while Mohammad Shahzad Arbab was removed as adviser. The prime minister also accepted the resignation of Khalid Maqbool Siddique as federal minister.

Secretary Ministry of National Food Security and Research Hashim Popalzai was also removed from his post and replaced by Omar Hameed.

Ministry of Industries was being overlooked by Abdul Razak Dawood, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production and Investment. However, no update has been issued on whether Dawood’s role has changed after Azhar’s appointment.

The reshuffle comes two days after the Federal Investigation Agency team released reports on the sugar crisis and beneficiaries of subsidies obtained by the industry’s bigwigs. The report on the sugar crisis named Bakhtiar, then minister for national food security, as a beneficiary. The report also named Jahangir Tareen, a PTI leader, as a beneficiary of the subsidy.

Around the same time as news of the cabinet reshuffle emerged, former Punjab government spokesperson Shahbaz Gill tweeted that Tareen has been removed as the chairperson of the task force on agriculture ‘in light of the findings of sugar and wheat inquiry report’.

Tareen, however, reacted soon after, saying that he was never appointed as the chairperson of the task force. “I was never chairman of any task force. Can anyone show me a notification with me as C’man?? Pl get your facts right people,” he posted on his official Twitter handle.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said he would take action against those responsible for the sugar and wheat price hike after he sees the detailed forensic report of the preliminary findings. “I await the detailed forensic reports now by the high-powered commission, which will come out on 25 April, before taking action,” the prime minister had said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Punjab Food Minister Samiullah Chaudhry tendered his resignation on Monday over alleged inaction on reforms regarding the food industry. In his resignation, Chaudhry said he resigned after meeting Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar.

In the letter, the provincial food minister said that he faced allegation that he could not bring reforms in the department, adding that until the clearance of accusations he will not hold any government office. “I am willing to sacrifice thousands of such ministries for completing the agenda of Imran Khan,” he wrote.

Calling the allegations baseless, the provincial minister said that he is voluntarily stepping back. The letter said that the minister is willing to present himself for accountability at any forum.

Addressing a press conference in the evening, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting DrFirdous Ashiq Awan said that Prime Minster Imran Khan has taken a historic step to start self-accountability process in the greater national interest. She said the reshuffle in the cabinet is the discretion of the prime minister and has made changes in his team to improve governance and make performance benchmark. “No such example of self-accountability in political history of Pakistan is available in the past,” she remarked.

DrFirdous said unfortunately five per cent elite has usurped the rights of 95 per cent of the general public, and Imran Khan has waged a struggle to give people them their usurped rights back. She said the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) was created to control monopolies but instead of performing its duties, it colluded with the cartels which resulted in addition to the problems of the general public. She said the process of restructuring of CCP is being started so that such situation can be avoided in future. She said steps are being taken to collect and maintain the data related to sugar industry from sugarcane produce, sugar production and its cost through technology.

She said the steps taken by the PM are the manifestation of the fact that in ‘Naya Pakistan’, there is no holy cow and the prime minister prefers institutions over the personalities. She said the people of Pakistan in 2018 election gave mandate to the PTI to root out corruption and the county is moving towards that direction under the dynamic leadership of Imran Khan. “Prime Minister Imran Khan is fulfilling his responsibilities as a trustee of masses and he has the conviction that interference in public welfare will not be tolerated,” she said.

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