ISLAMABAD -  Soon after assuming office, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has taken some administrative measures to spruce up the functioning of various ministries and divisions.

On the other hand, many in the Parliament including his cabinet colleagues believe that his rule would be more or less a continuation of his predecessor’s policies and development agenda.

Background interviews with parliamentarians and some cabinet members reveal that by and large the lawmakers sitting on both sides of the aisle viewed that no change in policies and development agenda of government was expected due to replacement of the prime minister.

They were of the view that in a relatively brief period of just 10 months Shahid Khaqan Abbasi would not be in a position to bring some marked changes in the government policies.

State Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb, who was holding the same portfolio in former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet, said that changing of the guards at the top level would not bring any change in the policies of the PML-N government and the incumbent premier would carry forward the development agenda of Nawaz Sharif who wanted to see Pakistan transformed into an economic power.

She further said that more or less the same team of ministers were part of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s cabinet and all of them would continue with the development agenda devised in their respective ministries.

Abbasi in his maiden speech in the Parliament as prime minister also hinted at following in the footsteps of his predecessor and prioritised the completion of the development projects underway especially those related to power generation,--- the main target of the ruling PML-N to bring an end to loadshedding before the next general elections.

Initially, his entry was for the interim period of 45 to 50 days, the time required for election of Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif as MNA to help him become prime minister and carryout rest of the mandated term of government.

But later, after detailed discussion and deliberations on the issue, it was decided that Shehbaz Sharif should stay back in Punjab, and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi would continue as prime minister for the rest of the term.

As the ruling PML-N enjoys a comfortable majority in the Lower House of the Parliament the new chief executive will not face any major challenge from the opposition parties.

 The major challenge before Abbasi would be handling the cabinet that includes political heavyweights such as Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Asif, Rana Tanvir and few others who would hardly follow his dictates, a senior parliamentarian from the main opposition party commented.

He further said that mainly the Prime Minister’s office would be run from Raiwind and Nawaz Sharif would be the de facto premier, and as already said and admitted by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi he would carry forward the development agenda of Nawaz Sharif.

The directives of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi that in future the ministers would not need any prior permission for going abroad in connection with official engagements was only meant to avoid bringing the senior lot in the federal cabinet in the subservience of the chief executive, he added.

Federal Minister for Climate Change Mushahidullah Khan spoke high of Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and said that he was a highly-qualified person and being a senior Parliamentarian his grip on issues was quite strong.

He admitted that although the policies of the government would remain the same but at the same time every person had his own personality and work pattern, which would become clear in the days to come.

The climate change minister said that with the complete backing of the former prime minister and support of the federal cabinet members Shahid Khaqan Abbasi would be a strong and effective prime minister.

Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office informed The Nation that Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, unlike his predecessor, stay late in the office to clear the files coming from various ministries and divisions.

It was further informed that Abbasi was not in habit of keeping backlog and was used to clear the office work on a daily basis.

These sources said that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was running his office from Prime Minister’s House and most of his office work was diverted to the Prime Minister’s House as he was not a regular visitor of PM Office.

The sources said that on the other hand Abbasi’s centre of activities was the Prime Minister’s Office and he went to PM House only when required in connection with some meetings with foreign dignitaries.

The coalition partners in the federal government had all reposed confidence in the policies and decisions of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and assured that they would extend cooperation to whosoever the ruling PML-N would install as the new chief executive of the country.

After taking oath of his office on August 1st, the very next day Abbasi had taken briefing on the functioning of the Prime Minister’s Office and also disposed of routine office work despite the fact that for the whole day he remained busy discussing and finalising the names of his cabinet members with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and other senior party leaders.

Political analysts said that there was no doubt Abbasi would be carrying forward the legacy of his predecessor.

They said that even then Abbasi had a lot of space to show his talent and abilities and being the chief executive he would definitely leave his imprints in the next eight to 10 months in office.

Within 10 days of assuming office, Khaqan Abbasi merged some ministries and departments and chopped a few, to spruce up functioning of the government.

The major structural changes introduced by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi included bringing Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) once again under his head, formation of Ministry of Energy by merging the power and petroleum ministries.

Similarly, Ministry of Water Resources now have one constituent division that is Water Resources Division. The business of the existing divisions of Water and Power and Petroleum and Natural Resources has been distributed between the two new divisions accordingly.

Ministry of Postal Services now have one constituent division that is the Postal Services Division.

The business of the Communications Division to the extent of postal services has now been transferred to the new division, while residual business remains with the Communications Division.

Ministry of Commerce and Textiles, with two constituent divisions, namely: Commerce Division; and Textile Division. The current business of the two existing divisions of commerce and textile industry has been placed under the new ministry accordingly.

Ministry of Statistics, with one constituent division namely: Statistics Division. Ministry of Privatisation, with one constituent division called Privatisation Division, while Ministry of Narcotics Control that now have one constituent division to be named as Narcotics Control Division.

Interestingly, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has kept the Planning Division under his control besides the Energy Division probably to expedite work on the CPEC-related projects particularly relating to power generation so that the government should bring to an end loadshedding from the country by the end of this year.

The placement of the CPEC and the Energy Division under his head was only to remove the managerial hiccups and undue delay in the execution of these projects, a ruling party parliamentarian commented.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab said that change in the chief executive would not affect the government policies and the focus of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi would also be on the development agenda of former premier Nawaz Sharif and of course the guidance of their Quaid would also be there.

Sources in the ruling PML-N said that those steps on part of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi were taken to further streamline and spruce up the functioning of those ministries and divisions. Prime Minister Abbasi’s visit to Karachi on Saturday last along with Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal also showed that peace and stability in the port city was still on the top of the priority list, which explicitly showed the continuity in government policies.

A senior parliamentarian commenting on the work of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that he seemed impressive in the first 10 days in office but his real test would be in the Parliament and his dealing with the main opposition parties in evolving consensus on the constitutional amendments some of which are quite controversial such as forming National Accountability Commission and Electoral Reform Bill.


Abrar Saeed