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April 7, 2020

After reports on sugar and wheat crises, PM Imran Khan makes changes in his cabinet

Top Story

April 7, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday reshuffled the federal cabinet on the heels of a jaw-dropping inquiry report on sugar and wheat crisis, sending shockwaves through the power corridors.

Veteran politician Syed Fakhar Imam was made Minister for National Food Security, replacing Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtyar, who would now take care of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The prime minister had also opted for a ministerial shake-up in April last year but this time the development took place soon after the inquiry committee report became public, blaming some senior PTI leaders and their allies and indirectly some sitting ministers and their close relatives for the wheat and sugar crisis. Leaders of opposition parties are also included.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Makhdoom Khusro has replaced Hammad Azhar, who has been made Minister for Industries. The prime minister not only removed Makhdoom Khusro (who served for as minister for planning and development for a year) as Minister for National Food Security, but also replaced Secretary Hashim Popalzai with Omar Hameed.

Similarly, the MQM’s Aminul Haq has been appointed Minister for Telecom in place of Dr. Maqbool Siddiqui, whose resignation as Minister for Information Technology, pending for four months, has been accepted.

Hours after the inquiry report saw the light of the day, the prime minister tweeted, “I await the detailed forensic reports now by the high-powered commission, which will come out on 25th April, before taking action. InshaAllah, after these reports come out, no powerful lobby will be able to profiteer at the expense of our public”.

Previously, Abdul Razak Dawood was Prime Minister’s Advisor on Commerce, Industries and Production. Interestingly, PTI’s senior member Babar Awan has chipped in as Advisor on Parliamentary Affairs, replacing Muhammad Azam Swati, who has been made Minister for Narcotics Control.

Sheharyar Afridi headed this ministry previously. It is hitherto unclear whether or not Afridi will retain his place in the cabinet. He had served as state minister for interior before being made minister for narcotics control last year.

Moreover, PM’s Adviser Arbab Shahzad has been removed. Advisor on Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan was quick to clarify media reports that Makhdoom Khusro had not resigned, rather his ministerial portfolio had been changed.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan is fulfilling his responsibilities as a trustee of the masses and reshuffle in the cabinet is his prerogative. Khusro Bakhtiar did not resign, his cabinet slot has been changed. Whosoever will come in the way of masses rights, will not be tolerated. There is no such example of self-accountability in the history of Pakistan,” she tweeted.

In addition to this key development, a former spokesperson for the Punjab government, Dr. Shahbaz Gill, tweeted that the PTI former secretary general Jahangir Tareen was also shown the door as the chairperson of the task force on agriculture in the light of the inquiry report.

He added that any further action may be taken after final findings of the inquiry committee. He tweeted, “Mr. Jahangir Khan Tareen has been removed as Chair of Task Force on Agriculture in light of the findings of Sugar and Wheat Inquiry Report. Any further action may be taken after final findings of the Inquiry Committee”.

And, within no time, Tareen reacted by tweeting, “Hello hello, News being reported that I have been “removed” as C’man Agri 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”.

The politician from South Punjab also clarified, “The sugar inquiry commission has been actively engaging with about 10 mills, including 3 of mine. We are sharing all records asked for. We have given free access even to our server. Nothing has been seized, as we are fulfilling all requests. We have nothing to hide”.

“Wait for similar developments in the Punjab government anytime. This would serve as a two-pronged strategy i.e. to appease critics, particularly in relation to the wheat and sugar crisis findings, and those up against the Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar,” claimed a close aide to prime minister when called him up for comment on the latest situation.