Cabinet reshuffles and replacement of cabinet ministers are a frequent tendency of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government but a certain firing and then re-hiring of a Punjab cabinet minister has been particularly disappointing. Former Punjab information and culture minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, who had been let go from the Punjab cabinet in March, has been appointed as the forestry, fisheries and wildlife minister.

This reshuffling is upsetting because the reasons for Chohan’s initial dismissal showed overwhelmingly that he does not have the required civility and capability expected of a provincial assembly representative, let alone a cabinet minister. He had been let go because of some extremely derogatory and obscene comments he had made against the Hindu community, for which he was rightly called to account by the Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and dismissed by Imran Khan. Name-calling and using obscenities has not been a one-time activity for Fayyaz Chohan- prior to his derogatory comments against the Hindu community, he had received criticism for using foul and misogynistic language against female artists of Lollywood.

Imran Khan stepping in and dismissing Chohan from the cabinet had been one U-turn that was appreciated. It generated much goodwill both from supporters and critics of Imran Khan. Indeed it even earned him praise internationally- the dismissal came at the height of Indian-Pakistan hostility. The Pakistani government stepping in and dismissing a Minister for anti-minority comments brought a lot of good publicity in favour of Pakistan at a time when the Indian Prime Minister Modi refused to demand accountability from Indian politicians provoking anti-Muslim sentiment. This dismissal crafted the image that Pakistan was the country which was sensible and tolerant of its minorities, and India was the aggressor in the Pulwama situation. The incident may have helped in the diplomatic success that Pakistan enjoyed in the aftermath of Indian airspace hostility.

It is thus a tragedy that the PTI government has decided to throw all that goodwill to waste and reward Chohan with a cabinet position. It demeans our Hindu community by rehabilitating a politician who has degraded their religion and it diminishes the credibility of the Punjab cabinet that such an ineffectual and unpopular MPA is within their ranks. It also makes the PTI look indecisive and shallow; his re-appointment reflects that the past dismissal had just been a sham and a slap on the wrist, and the government had not truly meant to send a strong message against hate speech.