New Pakistan finance minister Hammad Azhar
New Pakistan finance minister Hammad Azhar Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: In the latest cabinet reshuffle, Prime Minister Imran Khan has appointed Hammad Azhar as the new finance minister in place of Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.

Azhar, who has been serving as federal minister for industries and production, has been given the additional portfolio of minister for finance. Hammad Azhar is the third finance minister since Khan’s government came to power in 2018.

Azhar said the country’s economy had made “significant gains towards stabilisation since 2018” and expressed resolve to “consolidate these gains and strengthen the growth momentum.” Pakistan government navigated the economic fallout of COVID-19 “fairly well” and will “endeavour to protect our people from these shocks,” at a time when “the world is witnessing supply chain disruptions and rise in food prices”, he said.

The official announcement came after Hafeez Shaikh, a former World Bank executive with over 30 years of experience in the field, lost the Senate elections earlier this month. The parliament seat was mandatory for him to keep the office constitutionally.

Control inflation

The reshuffle is part of government’s policies to control surging inflation and prices of essential food items ahead of Ramadan. “There has been rising inflation, and the prime minister wants to bring in a fresh team to devise pro-poor policies that are rooted in the ground realities,” PTI leader Senator Shibli Faraz told media.

The government is currently under severe criticism over inflation particularly the spike in process of food commodities and electricity tariff at a time when people are struggling with pandemic shocks.

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Power Tabish Gauhar was given additional charge as the premier’s aide on petroleum, replacing Nadeem Babar who was asked to step down last week as the government launched an investigation into the June 2020 fuel crisis. More changes in the cabinet are anticipated this week. Local media reports claim that new appointments are expected in the information, energy, aviation, communication and maritime affairs ministries.