Change of team

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AS part of Cabinet reshuffle, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday removed Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and gave the portfolio to Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar, one of his close aides, as an additional charge.

According to Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz, the Prime Minister decided to bring in a new finance team in view of the rising inflation.

Whatever the actual reasons, the change was due after Dr Hafeez Shaikh lost Senate elections to Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani but was asked by the Prime Minister to continue for the time being.

As per Article 91 (9) of the Constitution, the Finance Minister could not be reappointed to the same position as an unelected individual, and his defeat in the Senate election implied he might only be able to serve in his current capacity until June.

It may be pointed out that the Chief Justice of Lahore High Court also recently questioned his continuation as Finance Minister after losing elections highlighting that in truly democratic countries people voluntarily resign from the public office if not elected.

Different interpretations are being given for this important change in the cabinet but remarks of the Information Minister make it clear that the Government was upset over unbridled inflation.

He expressed the hope that Azhar would achieve success in controlling inflation so that poor masses could get respite from high prices of essential items in the near future.

Some circles also relate the development to the controversial amendments in State Bank law, which are being termed as an attempt to hand over the central bank to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

This would become clear in coming days and weeks as the bill is under consideration of the National Assembly and it has to be seen whether it is reviewed or passed in the original version.

It is also interesting to note that the bill was cleared by a meeting of the federal cabinet, which was a reflection of faith in Dr Shaikh.

Analysts also point out towards resentment within PTI to the policy of giving important cabinet slots to unelected people.

Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh was a technocrat who made decisions on professional considerations, ignoring demands and recommendations of political players.

Dr Shaikh made remarkable contribution to the strengthening of the national economy but rising inflation is being cited as a major failure as it has direct bearing on the popularity of the Government.

His replacement – Hammad Azhar – is young and energetic and hopefully would work hard to address issues that really matter for people of Pakistan.