Pakistan: In major cabinet reshuffle, portfolios of several ministers changed

Islamabad: Announcing his first major cabinet reshuffle after taking office, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday brought in five new aides and changed the portfolios of four ministers, including that of Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who has now been assigned Science and Technology ministry.

Chaudhry will be replaced by Firdous Ashiq Awan, an erstwhile Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) stalwart who switched to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in May 2017.

Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, former finance minister in the PPP government from 2010 to 2013, has been appointed Advisor Finance. He will replace Asad Umar, who resigned hours before the announcement of the reshuffle, saying Imran Khan offered him energy ministry but he did not want it.

Moreover, a loyalist of former President General Pervez Musharraf and ex-spymaster Brig Ijaz Ahmed Shah, whose appointment last month as Parliamentary Affairs minister came as a big surprise, has been chosen as federal interior minister. Notably, the portfolio was so far kept by Prime Minister Khan himself.

Meanwhile, Minister of state for Interior, Shehryar Afridi, has now been named the Minister for States and Frontier Regions (Safron).

Ghulam Sarwar Khan, who was the petroleum minister, has been shifted to aviation ministry. Reportedly, Sarwar had threatened to quit the party if removed from the cabinet. Therefore he was shifted to Aviation portfolio which was until then held by Federal Minister for Privatisation Muhammad Mian Soomro.

The reshuffle comes as the South Asian nation is going through a serious economic crisis. Despite owing around USD 10 billion to Beijing and Riyadh, Islamabad is seeking another bailout package of USD 8 to 10 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).