The recent reshuffling and changes in the federal cabinet by Prime Minister Imran Khan and his warning that he would sent home packing any minister or official, who would perform below par, is quite unlike traditional Pakistani rulers, who have always been giving political loyalties precedence over good governance.
The biggest manifestation of PM Khan’s non-traditional style of governance is showing the door to his henchman, Asad Umar, who remained finance minister during the last nine months of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. PM Khan even changed the portfolios of his State Minister for Interior, Shehryar Afridi and Federal Minister for Petroleum Ghulam Sarwar Khan as well as Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry while sacking Minister for Kashmir Affairs Ali Ameen Gandapur. All these ministers have been close confidants of PM Khan and their reshuffling or outright sacking was not easy at all. Most of the opposition parties and a large number of anchors have dubbed the reshuffling of the cabinet by the premier as an evidence of the failure of the PTI government and immature politics of PM Khan.
An independent view of the changes in the federal cabinet by PM Khan suggests that it was a very rash, if not bad, decision by the chief executive of the country. However, a deeper look reveals that the reshuffling of ministers and sacking of others by the premier had become necessary. Without any doubt, the country’s economy has performed poorly since the PTI government got into the saddle in August last year. The current account deficit has widened and inflation has skyrocketed with the foreign exchange reserves constantly plummeting. This has been despite the fact that former federal minister for finance, Asad Umar, did his best to resurrect the sagging economy of Pakistan. However, the strategy of Asad Umar could not work in the short run. As the economy is a sensitive issue for each and every citizen, as it has a direct impact on each one’s life, that a minister cannot be given much time to put things in order. The political cost of the poor performing economy is also so huge that a government cannot afford to delay fixing the fundamentals of the economy. Resultantly, PM Khan, after thorough discussions with his cabinet members and advisors and, above all, Asad Umar, came to the conclusion that he may relinquish the charge of the ministry and give it to some other parliamentarian. However, Umar has been replaced by an unelected adviser, Hafeez Sheikh, who is a big name in the field of economics.
Coming to the question of the reshuffling of other ministers and sacking of others, the change in the portfolio of Ghulam Sarwar Khan is also very important. Because, the gentleman despite being an old and experienced politician, could not put things in order in the petroleum ministry, with gas prices showing a sharp increase and breaking the back of ordinary citizens, who had to pay inflated bills. The cost of the incompetence of the ministers could not be transferred to the citizens. Against the backdrop of this logical argument, a change in the portfolio of Ghulam Sarwar Khan was a right step.
The changes in the federal cabinet by PM Khan could only be dubbed completely correct or otherwise by gauging the performance of those who replaced the former ministers. However, the decision of the changes and sacking of the ministers demonstrated the political will of PM Khan. The chief executive, just a day after his decision to bring about changes in the key ministries, announced that he was fully convinced of his changes and gave a clear and loud message to all of his cabinet colleagues and advisors as well as key officials that whosoever would not perform to his best, had no place in his government. PM Khan, while addressing a public gathering in Orakzai district on April 19, rightly said that he was only answerable to Allah Almighty as he was occupying a very important position and, therefore, he would do whatever he thought would be in the public interest. These words and the bent of mind of PM Khan demonstrate that he is very much conscious of the fact that the power he enjoys is a sacred trust. Everything in this ill-fated country could be put on the right track if there is a political will from the top leadership. Historically, successive rulers including elected prime ministers, chief ministers and even military rulers, have been reluctant to fix different sectors. The reshuffling of the ministers and sacking of others also could have a huge political cost for PM Khan, as it would annoy many of his own party parliamentarians and ministers and there is a big question mark whether he could afford the annoyance. Because the federal government of the PTI has a very thin majority in the parliament and if a forward bloc emerges within the party ranks of parliamentarians, the government could lose confidence of the house. However, there is a very sharp dividing line between appeasing his party members and parliamentarians and those of the coalition partners and setting a model governance system, so that the basic issues of the people could be addressed. PM Khan, by getting least bothered by the thought that by the shuffling and sacking, he would annoy his ministers and parliamentarians and instead pondering that there was a need of providing relief to the people, has shown that he really means business and for this he has all what it takes politically. His reshuffling and sacking of ministers may have annoyed many but must also have made many concerned about their political fate and career which would be sealed if they do not perform exceptionally in the government. This point would have a wholesome impact on the overall performance of the government.
PM Khan, by bringing changes to his cabinet, has quite early shown that how concerned he is about good governance and that he wants to achieve it by any cost even by annoying his key confidants. This is unconventional politics by any top leader of Pakistan and the country urgently needs this as the traditional politics and ruling style of successive governments have increased the sufferings of the people and costing dearly to the political stability, economic growth and development of Pakistan. At the moment, for all of us, the main question is not that who has been made minister and who has been sacked, but what is the overall performance of the government and what relief has been provided to citizens.