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Monday Apr 06 2020

PM Imran reshuffles cabinet; Khusro Bakhtiar, Hammad Azhar given new portfolios

Prime Minister Imran Khan reshuffled the federal cabinet on Monday, a few days after an FIA report identified that top PTI leaders benefited the most, with others, from the sugar crisis

Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Khusro Bakhtiar resigned from the ministry and has now been appointed as minister for economic affairs, replacing Hammad Azhar.

Azhar has been assigned the portfolio of industries, Azam Swati has been made the minister of narcotics control. Babar Awan has been made the advisor for parliamentary affairs, replacing Swati.

The government has transferred and appointed Omar Hameed as Secretary Ministry of National Food Security.

Resignation of Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui as federal minister has been accepted, while MQMP’s Amin-ul-Haq has been appointed as Federal Minister for Telecommunication.

Advisor to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Establishment, Shehzad Arbab, has been removed from his position.

The PM's adviser on commerce, textile, industry and production, and investment, Abdul Razak Dawood, was also removed from his position, sources informed Geo News. It was, however, unclear if he had been given another post.

Furthermore, Hashim Popalzai has been removed as Secretary Ministry of National Food Security and Research.

In a tweet, Tareen refuted reports that he was removed as the chair of the agricultural task force, urging people to "get your facts right". However, former Punjab government spokesperson and PTI leader Dr Shahbaz Gill took to Twitter and said that Tareen had been removed as the chairperson of the board.

'Top PTI members benefitted from sugar crisis'

Earlier, a report by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had claimed that top PTI members were among those who gained from the recent sugar crisis in the country.

An investigation into the crisis had been ordered by Prime Minister Imran Khan in February.

Among the people named in the FIA report are Jahangir Tareen and a brother of Minister for National Food Security Khusro Bakhtiar.

Tareen was said by the report to have benefitted the most from the sugar crisis followed by Bakhtiar's brother.

The report also claims that the companies belonging to Moonis Elahi — an ally of the party — profited from the sugar crisis. Elahi is Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi's son and a key member of the PML-Q.

The document does not mention under whose influence Punjab government issued subsidies to sugar mills or why the Economic Coordination Council (ECC) approved the decision to export sugar.

Reacting to the report, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said he has faith that whatever the situation, Prime Minister Imran Khan "will ensure justice".

Tareen, PTI's former general secretary, said that out of the Rs3bn subsidy to the sugar mills, Rs2.5bn were given when the PML-N was in power.

PM Imran warns of stern action

On Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said he would take action against those responsible for the sugar and wheat price hike after he sees the detailed forensic report of the preliminary findings.

"I await the detailed forensic reports now by the high-powered commission, which will come out on 25 April, before taking action," the prime minister said in a tweet.

Punjab Food Minister Samiullah Chaudhry resigns

Punjab Food Minister Samiullah Chaudhry tendered his resignation on Monday over alleged inaction on reforms regarding the food industry.

In his resignation, Chaudhry said he resigned after meeting Chief Minister Punjab, Usman Buzdar.

In the letter, the provincial food minister said that he faced allegation that he could not bring reforms in the department, adding that until the clearance of accusations he would not hold any government office.

“I am willing to sacrifice thousands of such ministries for completing the agenda of Imran Khan,” he wrote.

Calling the allegations baseless, the provincial minister said that he is voluntarily stepping back.

The letter said that the minister is willing to present himself for accountability at every forum.