A few days after the investigation report launched into the recent sugar and wheat crisis which some government officials called, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday changed his cabinet with the addition of new members including ministers and advisers, in addition to changing several portfolios.
The portfolio of the Federal Minister for National Food Security was given to Syed Fakhar Imam, replacing Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiyar who was appointed as the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs. Hammad Azhar was appointed as Federal Minister for Industry, Azam Sawati as Federal Minister for Narcotics Control and Amin-ul-Haq as Federal Minister for Telecommunications. Babar Awan was appointed as Prime Minister’s Advisor for Parliamentary Affairs, while Mohammad Shahzad Arbab was transferred as advisor. The prime minister also accepted the resignation of Khalid Maqbool Siddique as federal minister.
The Secretary of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research Hashim Popalzai was also removed from his post and replaced by Omar Hameed.
The Ministry of Industry was ignored by Abdul Razak Dawood, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Trade, Textiles, Industry and Production and Investment. However, no update has been issued as to whether Dawood’s role has changed after the appointment of Azhar.
This overhaul was carried out two days after the Federal Investigation Agency team released a report on the sugar crisis and recipients of subsidies obtained by industry leaders. A report on the sugar crisis named Bakhtiar, who was then the minister for national food security, was the beneficiary. The report also referred to Jahangir Tareen, a PTI leader, as a recipient of subsidies.
Around the same time the cabinet reshuffle news emerged, former Punjab government spokesman Shahbaz Gill tweeted that Tareen had been removed as chair of the task force on agriculture “in view of the findings of the sugar and wheat investigation report”.
Tareen, however, reacted immediately afterwards, saying that he had never been appointed as head of the task force. “I have never been the chair of any task force. Can anyone show me a notification as Cman ?? Please make the fact that you are the right person, “he posted on his official Twitter account.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said he would take action against those responsible for rising sugar and wheat prices after he saw a detailed forensic report from the initial findings. “I am waiting for a detailed forensic report now by the high-powered commission, which will come out on April 25, before taking action,” the prime minister said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, Punjab Food Minister Samiullah Chaudhry submitted his resignation on Monday over alleged absence of reforms related to the food industry. In his resignation, Chaudhry said he resigned after meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.
In the letter, the provincial food minister said that he faced accusations that he could not bring reform in the department, adding that until the cleaning permit he would not hold the government office. “I am willing to sacrifice thousands of such ministries to complete Imran Khan’s agenda,” he wrote.
Citing the accusations as baseless, the provincial minister said that he voluntarily resigned. The letter said that the minister was willing to present himself for accountability in any forum.
In his address at a press conference in the evening, the Prime Minister’s Special Assistant for Information and Broadcasting, DrFirdous Ashiq Awan said that Prime Minister Minster Imran Khan had taken a historic step to begin the process of self-accountability in the interests of the greater national interest. He said an overhaul in the cabinet was at the discretion of the prime minister and had made changes in his team to improve governance and set performance benchmarks. “There are no examples of such accountability in Pakistan’s political history that were available in the past,” he said.
He said the steps taken by the PM were a manifestation of the fact that in ‘Naya Pakistan’, there were no sacred cows and the prime minister preferred institutions rather than personalities. He said the Pakistani people in the 2018 elections gave the PTI mandate to eradicate corruption and the area was moving in that direction under the dynamic leadership of Imran Khan. “Prime Minister Imran Khan is fulfilling his responsibility as a mass watchdog and he has confidence that interference in the welfare of the people will not be tolerated,” he said.
Dr Firdous said, unfortunately, five percent of the elite had taken away 95 percent of the rights of the general public, and Imran Khan had struggled to give their people the right to deprivation. He said the Pakistan Competition Commission (CCP) was created to control the monopoly but instead of doing its job, it colluded with cartels which resulted in additional problems for the general public. He said the CCP’s restructuring process was beginning so that such a situation could be avoided in the future. He said steps were being taken to collect and maintain data related to the sugar industry from sugar cane yield, sugar production and costs through technology.
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