Major reshuffle as ‘Tabdeeli’ jolts federal cabinet

By: News Desk      Published: 06:01 PM, 6 Apr, 2020
Major reshuffle as ‘Tabdeeli’ jolts federal cabinet

Days after FIA reports on Flour and Sugar crises in the country named names, a number of key changes have been made in the federal cabinet.

According to the changes announced on Monday, the Ministry of National Food Security has been given to Syed Fakhr Imam.

Khusro Bakhtyar, who earlier held this ministry and was under intense pressure following the FIA report on sugar crisis, has now been given the Economic Affairs portfolio – another key ministry.

Hashim Popalzai has also been removed as Secretary of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research and Umar Hameed was given this position.

Abdul Razak Daud was removed as PM Advisor on Trade as well as Chairman Sugar Advisory Board.

The changes in the cabinet went beyond food affairs as Shehzad Arbab was removed as Advisor to Prime Minister while the resignation of Khalid Maqbool Siddique of MQM was also accepted.

Also, Hammad Azhar has been made Minister for Industries and Ameenul Haq given telecommunication portfolio.

Babar Awan, a former PPP leader, has been made PM Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs.

Azam Sawati has been made Federal Minister for Narcotics Control.

Prime Minister's Office announced these changes in a string of tweets.

The key changes in the federal cabinet gave rise to speculations that the government might have been told by the powers that be to bring its house in order amid the growing public resentment over its failure to deliver on almost all fronts.

The FIA had blamed Federal Minister for Food Security Khusro Bakhtyar, PTI top leader Jahangir Tareen, PML-Q’s Moonis Elahi and their relatives responsible for sugar crisis.

Bakhtiyar had himself requested Prime Minister Imran Khan to take the Food Security portfolio from him through a letter.

He, in the letter, stated that his name was wrongly being maligned as he had no role in the grant of sugar subsidy.

He said that he was Minister of Planning and Development when the subsidy was granted and was made Food Security minister only four months ago.     

Jahangir Tareen

Shahbaz Gill, a PTI activist who once held an important position in Punjab, claimed in a tweet on Monday that party stalwart Jahangir Khan Tareen has been removed from the chairmanship of Agriculture Task Force as a result of the report on sugar crisis.

He also said that more 'action' was expected after the completion of the investigation.

However, Tareen, in his reaction, said he was never appointed as the task force chairman.

On the other hand, Tareen alleged that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Principal Secretary Azam Khan was behind the report. He also claimed that Azam was constantly damaging the prime minister.

Talking to media persons, Tareen termed the report on sugar crisis a ‘political report’ and said the claim that the investigation commission was threatened of increasing the sugar price was baseless.

He labelled the report as a personal attack but added that he was in constant touch with the prime minister and stood by him.

He said he provided 20,000 tons sugar to utility stores at the rate of Rs 67 per kg and provided Rs 250m benefit to the public. “If I would have not provided sugar at Rs 67 per kg at Utility Stores then I could also submit Rs 250m in Prime Minister’s Corona Relief Fund.”

Separately, Tareen said in a tweet, “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 “

Changes in Punjab

In a direct relevance to the FIA report, earlier in the day (Monday) Punjab Food Minister Samiullah Chaudhry tendered his resignation to Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.

In his resignation letter, Chaudhry claimed that the allegations levelled against him were baseless and he was ready for accountability at any forum.

He submitted his resignation during a meeting with Buzdar, where he added that he did not consider himself eligible to hold any office till proven innocent.

On the other hand, Buzdar made former food secretary Naseem Sadiq an OSD. Naseem was currently working as Dera Ghazi Khan commissioner.

Similarly, former Punjab Food Department Director Zafar Iqbal has also been made an OSD with immediate effect.

Meanwhile, Punjab government spokesperson Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chohan said the resignation was a voluntary act and the report had been made public on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s directives.