The cabinet reshuffle, which replaced nearly half of the federal cabinet, is not over yet. A day after Imran Khan hinted at further changes in his cabinet, the State Bank and the Federal Board of Revenue also fell victim to it. Tariq Bajwa is no longer the governor of the State Bank, and Jahanzeb Khan is no longer the chairman of FBR.

Though Imran Khan had implied that changes would be taking place, these removals are still surprising. This reshuffle came when Tariq Bajwa was in Islamabad for talks with the Interna¬tional Monetary Fund (IMF) that are supposedly ‘progressing’. The importance of these talks cannot be understated as these are the last leg of negotiations with the IMF before the finalisation of a programme. Similarly, the FBR Chairman also seems to have been taken in surprise as his removal came in the midst of him planning meetings for the weekend.

It appears that the criticism that the Prime Minister received for the cabinet reshuffle and particularly the replacement of the Finance Minister Asad Umar with Hafeez Shaikh has not deterred him from making further controversial changes. The reason that the replacement of Mr Umar received more flack than that of the Information Minister or the Petroleum Minister was due to it being a pivotal time for the economy. The long drawn out talks with the IMF are at its most crucial juncture, and a strong stable front from the government is necessitated in order to secure a good deal to pull our economy out of suffocation.

Both the SBP governor and the FBR chairman are influential in the IMF programme. The governor is one of the signatories to any programme, and the FBR chairman is tasked with meeting the revenue target that usually lies at the heart of any programme. At this time, reshuffling of positions which play a critical role in the negotiations does not do well in projecting an image of a settled, united administration.

The terrible optics of an abruptly changing government aside, it must be admitted that some of these changes were direly needed. The FBR has been performing terribly for the past few years. The government’s crackdown on the FBR, along with its harsh measures with the PIA and CAA, reflect that the government might have a long-term plan, considering it remains undeterred with the reshuffle despite criticism. We can only hope this plan is for the best.