It is not so easy to order a sudden series of replacements for powerful positions. It is no surprise that the government is facing many challenges with its recent appointments of Dr Reza Baqir as the Governor of the State Bank, and Shabbar Zaidi as the new Chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

Pertaining to the appointment of Dr Reza Baqir, the opposition parties of the parliament are taking exception to his previous affiliation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Dr Baqir has served with the IMF for nineteen years, and was most recently the Fund’s resident representative for the Arab Republic of Egypt. According to opposition members in the parliament, who registered their discontent through a noisy protest during Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Quereshi’s speech in the Senate, this amounts to Dr Baqir being an “IMF man”, implying that his affiliation with the IMF would disadvantage Pakistan in the upcoming negotiations with the Fund for a financial package.

In the case of the FBR, the reservations with the new appointment are more credible since there are serious questions about the procedure in which Shabbar Zaidi was appointed Chairman. The new appointment has put the functions of the FBR, which include drawing of a revenue plan, in jeopardy due to confusion over who the Chairman is, as the summary to appoint Shabbar Zaidi, a Karachi-based chartered accountant, as new chairman was returned by the cabinet. The Establishment Division secretary is reported to have raised two major objections to the appointment — a conflict of interest in appointing a private sector chartered accountant whose job all along has been to advise large business houses on tax matters, and the failure to have followed the guidelines laid down by the Islamabad High Court in the nomination of private sector individuals to such positions.

While some of the pushback against these new appointments is valid, some of the concerns voiced are nothing but the refusal of rigid institutions to change. While abrupt reshuffles are not a good policy, the government is within its right to make replacements, especially if they were not doing a good job, as in the case of the State Bank and the FBR. While the government should follow proper procedure to avoid further problems, it must be noted that these bodies are extremely resistant to change and reform from the outside, despite it being the need of the hour. The government must stand firm on the appointments and the reform.