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Friday Aug 04 2017

PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's cabinet takes oath


ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi's 43-member cabinet was sworn-in by President Mamnoon Hussain at a ceremony on Friday morning.

The new cabinet includes eight members from South Punjab, five each from Balochistan and Sindh, three from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and one each from FATA and Islamabad. 

Sources said party MNAs Daniyal Aziz, Mir Dostain Domki, Ayaz Sherazi and Mumtaz Tarar did not attend the ceremony despite being on the list of new ministers. 

Aziz is said to have reservations regarding his appointment as a state minister, according to sources. But Aziz rubbished such claims in a tweet, saying he stands with Nawaz Sharif. 

A new ministry of 'power' has also been formed after combining the ministries of petroleum and electricity, sources added. A separate ministry of water will be formed as well. The prime minister, who held the portfolio of petroleum and natural resources ministry in the previous cabinet, will head the new power ministry. 

The oath-taking ceremony took place at the Presidency and was attended by PML-N members and senior government officials, as well as people from other walks of life. 

The members of the cabinet, speaking after the president, repeated their oath of office submitted the signed oaths to the president. 

Following the oath-taking, the prime minister chaired the first session of his cabinet. The premier gave directions to the ministers to complete their designated tasks in the stipulated time period. 

In the meeting, it was also decided that the cabinet will meet weekly so the ministries' weekly progress can be gauged. 

Who's who 

The portfolios for the new federal cabinet were finalised on Thursday evening following hectic consultations in Murree by PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, the new premier and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, among other party leaders.  

Senior Pakistan Mulsim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has excused himself from being part of the new cabinet. Nisar had hinted at the move in a much-anticipated press conference last week.

In his stead, the portfolio of the interior ministry will be assigned to Ahsan Iqbal, the former development minister. 

After having no foreign minister for four years, former defence, water and power minister Khawaja Asif will be the new foreign minister of the country. 

Khurram Dastagir — the commerce minister in Sharif's cabinet — will be taking over as the defence minister. 

Senior PML-N leader Ishaq Dar will retain his previous portfolio as the finance minister.

 Dar, a close aide of Nawaz, will soon face trial in an accountability court as the National Accountability Bureau will soon file references against him and other Sharif family members in light of the Supreme Court's verdict in the Panama Papers case. 

Senator Mushahidullah Khan will be the minister for climate change, the portfolio he lost when he resigned around two years ago after a controversial interview alleging the military's role in scheming against the civilian government. 

Pervaiz Malik will become minister for commerce.

Arshad Laghari will be the state minister for industries and production, Junaid Anwar will take oath as state minister for communication, Talal Chaudhry will become the state minister for interior while Marriyum Aurangzeb will retain her portfolio as state minister for information and broadcasting. 

PML-N's Danial Aziz addressing the media. Photo: File 

Daniyal Aziz, who along with Talal Chaudhry vociferously defended the government, party and Sharif family during the last year or so in light of the Panama Papers case, will also be included in the cabinet as a state minister. 

Anusha Rahman will retain her portfolio as state minister for IT and Telecommunication, Saira Afzal Tarar will also retain her portfolio as state minister for health. 

Earlier consultations 

It was reported earlier that the upcoming federal cabinet will include five new faces, according to sources familiar with the proceedings of the high-level PML-N huddle in Murree.

Sources said Nawaz Sharif had directed prime minister Abbasi and Shehbaz to include natives of South Punjab and the smaller provinces in the cabinet.

Nawaz, PM Abbasi and Shehbaz, among others, were holding a meeting on Thursday at Shehbaz's residence near Murree to finalise names of cabinet members. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, the newly sworn-in prime minister left for Islamabad. 

The PML-N's consultative session in Murree on Wednesday failed to finalise members of the Khaqani's cabinet, which led to the postponement of the oath-taking which had been scheduled for 5:30pm. 

During the session, it was decided that a meeting of the PML-N's central working committee would be called in the next few days to decide the party's internal matters. Sources said that Nawaz Sharif will likely be given a ceremonious title as the party's head since his present position of party president cannot continue owing to the Panama Papers case verdict. 

Punjab CM Shehbaz Sharif addressing the media after appearing before the Panama case JIT in June. Photo: File

Sources added that Shehbaz Sharif could be nominated as the party's president. 

Speaking outside the Supreme Court on Thursday, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader Babar Awan asked why Nawaz Sharif continues to occupy the PML-N presidency.

He said only a person who is eligible to be an MNA can head a party. Since the Supreme Court disqualified Nawaz in the Panama Papers case, he no longer should be the party’s president, he contended.