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Can PM Imran get it right: cabinet reshuffle or jigsaw puzzle?

25 Jan, 2022
The PTI-led government on August 18, 2018, announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan has finalised the names of his 21-member cabinet, which has now swelled to 55. File
The PTI-led government on August 18, 2018, announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan has finalised the names of his 21-member cabinet, which has now swelled to 55. File

The recent resignation of Shahzad Akbar from the post of special adviser to the prime minister on accountability and interior has again raised questions over the incumbent government’s strategy to handle the country’s matters.

Akbar’s decision has also triggered another round rumours of another federal cabinet reshuffle, which Prime Minister Imran Khan has defended in his many speeches by using cricket metaphors.

“I have changed the batting order of my team. If someone is not working, his batting order will be changed,” PM Imran, the cricketer-turned-politician, said while addressing a rally in Orakzai on April 19, 2019.

Then, during an interaction with journalists on May 3 2019, PM Imran defended the inclusion of unelected people into the cabinet. “The government has to select the best available people in Pakistan as the best talent had already left the country,” he had said.

The PTI-led government on August 18, 2018, announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan has finalised the names of his 21-member cabinet, which has now swelled to 55.

However, many of the ‘best available people in the cabinet have also quit their job with reasons best known to them. So far, almost two dozen members – including ministers, advisers, and PM’s aides – have been sacked or resigned from their posts. In the past, PML-N and PPP had also witnesses where their key members were dismissed in view of court orders or forced to quit after protests.

Starting from world renowned economist Atif Mian to the recent Shahzad Akbar, the government has a long list of members who left the seat vacant. Here’s a look at a few of them.

Atif Mian

Princeton University economist Atif Mian, one of the prominent scholars in PM Imran’s Economic Advisory Council, was asked by the government to step down from the post after pressure from political and religious parties. A smear campaign was launched against Mian because of his faith. As a surprise, a call-to-attention notice was also been submitted in the Senate by opposition parties – including PML-N, MMA, and PkMAP against Mian’s inclusion in the EAC. The TLP had also opposed his induction. Such developments prompted the government to “bow to extremists.”

Asad Umar

PM Imran’s financial czar Asad Umar had quit the post of finance minister nine months after getting the post. "It was time to make some difficult decisions to stabilise the economy and I hope my replacement will be supported in their efforts," he said in a press conference on April 18, 2019. He is now serving as the planning minister.

Hafeez Sheikh

Former finance minister Hafeez Sheikh was brought by the government to take the same post after Asad Umar’s resignation. He was apparently brought to clear the way for the IMF package and steer the economy. However, after almost two years, PM Imran removed him from the ministry in March 2021.

Waqar Masood Khan

Ex-finance secretary Waqar Masood Khan was appointed Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue but he resigned from his post on August 24, 2021.

Zulfiqar Bukhari

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari had to step away from his position over the allegations levelled against him in the Rawalpindi Ring Road project scam. He announced his decision on May 17, 2021. The PM had appointed Zulfi as his aide a month after taking office in September 2018.

Aamir Mehmood Kiyani

Aamir Mehmood Kiyani, who served as federal minister for national health services from Aug 20, 2018, to April 18, 2019, was among those PTI stalwarts who was among the earliest selections by Prime Minister Imran Khan for his cabinet. However, Kiyani had to resign following allegations of corruption in the medicines price-hike scandal.

Tabish Gohar

Tabish Gohar, who was appointed SAPM on Power and Petroleum Tabish Gauhar, on September 21, 2021, resigned from the post, almost a year after his appointment. In a series of tweets, he said that challenges in the energy sector were manifold. Moreover, in a letter to Energy Minister Hammad Azhar in July, Gohar had called for structural reforms in the energy sector.

Ishrat Hussain

On July 30, 2021, Ishrat Hussain resigned as the adviser to the PM on institutional reforms and austerity. Hussain, who had served as the dean of the Institute of Business Administration and was previously the central bank governor, had been a part of the federal cabinet with the status of a federal minister since August 2018 and had set up an Institutional Reforms Cell at the PM Office.

Firdous Ashiq Awan

PM Imran had appointed Firdous Ashiq Awan, the former PPP leader, as SAPM on Information and Broadcasting in April 2019. However, later she was removed and sent to Punjab to take the charge of Adviser to the Punjab CM.

Brig (retd) Ijaz Shah

Brig (retd) Ijaz Shah, a former spy chief serving as interior minister, was criticised by the PPP leaders for his apparent involvement in the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. In December 2020, he was removed from the post. Shah now serves as the Narcotics Control Minister.

Nadeem Babar

“SAPM on Petroleum Nadeem Babar has been asked to resign from his position over last year’s fuel crisis,” Planning Minister Asad Umar announced on March 26, 2021. He had added that PM Imran had asked Babar to step down from the position for a 90-day period, during which the FIA will conduct a forensic investigation into the “criminal acts” that led to the fuel crisis.

Nadeem Afzal Chan

Another former PPP leader Nadeem Afzal Chan was also appointed as PM’s aide but he resigned from his post in January 2021. Chan’s resignation came after his tweet pertaining to the deaths of colliers in Mach, Balochistan.

Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa

Lt Gen (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa on October 12, 2021, in a tweet announced that he was stepping down as SAPM on information and broadcasting. He “had requested the PM to accept his resignation.” Later, Bajwa also quit as CPEC Authority chairman. The resignation came in the wake of allegations that his brothers’ business, including the pizza chain Papa John's, in the United States and its growth was related to his promotion while he was in Pakistan Army.