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April 18, 2021

The moving cabinet

Editorial

 
April 18, 2021

Much like a merry-go-round, to use something of a hackneyed term, the federal cabinet appears never to stop moving. The prime minister of the country insists that as the leader of the country, he has an eye on every ministry and himself takes a personal interest in this. This raises even further questions about why he is not able to select the correct team, which he states is necessary to run any country and any government with success. At the same time, we have heard whispers and rumours about the demand for a presidential system which would allow more technocrats to move into government. But should we really be blaming the whole system for a government’s failure to figure out the right people for the right job? We have seen technocrats work under Gen Pervez Musharraf and under dictators before him, and they led the country nowhere at all. But at the present moment, it is getting harder and harder to even keep track of the ministries. The most important of these is the Ministry of Finance, which needs to liaise with almost every ministry if affairs are to be run smoothly. Yet Finance began with Asad Umar in the chair; he was then replaced by technocrat Dr Hafeez Sheikh who was also put up to contest a Senate seat, but was defeated and then left the ministership too. Following this, much faith was expressed in the relatively young Hammad Azhar who was propped as someone with a constituency, who had been elected and would therefore do his job well. However, Azhar lasted nearly 18 days. He has now been replaced by Shaukat Tareen, a veteran who has also served the PPP government and who recently lashed out at the PTI’s economic and finance policies saying that too much had been given away to the IMF and not enough relief provided to people by abandoning subsidies and going along with what the IMF demanded without a fight.

All this would have been funny had it not been so serious. A government should never be taken in a light tone given that it is the body which serves the people and must serve the people to the very best of its abilities. But here we see ministers being switched around apparently at whim. Shibli Faraz, the former information minister has now been given the Ministry of Science and Technology while Fawad Chaudhary, the minister for science has moved to information – again. Khusro Bakhtiar now heads the Ministry for Industries and Production, even though this is in direct conflict with his role as the owner of a sugar mill and Omar Ayub has been removed as the minister of energy and petroleum, but holds the important Ministry of Economic Affairs. There have been other changes and we assume more could come. There is no guarantee that Imran Khan has finally found the team that will lead the country during his remaining two and a half years in government. Without a steady set of people to run the country, and most importantly without a steady, well thought-out policy that all can follow, there is little hope of taking the country along the right path. Certainly, at this point, we have seen one crisis after the other erupt in the country with the heads of important institutions, such as the FBR and the BOI, also being changed repeatedly. In such a situation, there can be little hope of stability, and effectively running a country which today stands surrounded by a flurry of problems. Finally, we must point out that the problems Pakistan is facing in areas such as economy and energy are deep and structural rather than superficial and they cannot be tackled with cosmetic changes like these. Unless some fundamentals in our economic and financial management alter, no change of face can bring about an improvement in these areas. The government needs long-term strategies rather than short-sighted rearrangements.