Cabinet shake up


Normally shuffling the federal cabinet six or seven times in just half an electoral cycle doesn’t speak too well about the incumbent government’s choice of ministers, yet Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) had marketed this latest reshuffle as something of a game-changer. As such it is surprising to see Hammad Azhar shifted so quickly, not even a month after taking over as finance minister, to oversee the energy ministry. What is more his replacement, and effectively the fourth finance minister so far in this term, Shaukat Tareen, brings some baggage with him that the government could have done without at this time.
He was, just like Hafeez Sheikh, finance minister during the PPP government as well. And since the PTI administration doesn’t have much good to say about the way the economy was handled during that time, this does not come across as the most promising choice. He’s also already transgressed into the jurisdiction of the central bank and questioned the State Bank of Pakistan’s (SPB’s) high interest rate regime, leading some to question if that puts Reza Baqir’s governorship on the clock.
Nobody would’ve been too unhappy about Omar Ayub leaving the power division and heading to the ministry of economic affairs. Recent investigative reports made it clear, for all intents and purposes, that he and Nadeem Babar actually made the situation worse, especially with regard to the circular debt that has been growing at the fastest pace on record; completely opposite to repeated claims made by him over the last two and a half years. It’s also difficult to see the logic in swapping portfolios of Shibli Faraz and Fawad Chaudhary. Should it be considered a promotion, of sorts, for both? Or maybe for just one? Or maybe the prime minister expects Fawad to do better with information and Shibli with science and technology. Perhaps the new information minister will explain these things in a little more detail soon enough.
Something must also be said about changes that have not been made. There does appear some dead wood in the cabinet as well, and ministries like aviation, privatisation, parliamentary affairs and even the parliamentary special committee on Kashmir, for that matter, have hardly inspired any confidence. There’s also no word about the fate of Faisal Vowda. Can another surprise be expected down the road or is this pretty much it for him?
Hopefully this was the last time that Prime Minister Imran Khan felt forced to adjust his batting order. There isn’t much time left and the last half-cycle is usually about delivering results. And as things stand any success the government is able to achieve in any field is quickly overshadowed by very obvious public discontent about runaway prices of some items of daily use with the most inelastic demand. The new team is expected to get cracking very quickly because it simply does not have the luxury of time.