Islamabad: The cabinet of new Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Friday saw the return of old faces, but a major change in portfolios was seen, with most notable being the induction of ex-Defence Minister Khawaja Asif as Foreign Minister.
The country was without a full-time Foreign Minister since the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) came to power in 2013. The last full-time Foreign Minister was Hina Rabbani Khar, who served in the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government.
Sartaj Aziz was serving as the de facto Foreign Minister in the Nawaz Sharif government, as he was Special Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs.
The new cabinet of Khaqan Abbasi was sworn in at the Presidency.
The cabinet consists of 46 members, but only 44 members took the oath of office administered by President Mamnoon Hussain. The cabinet consists of 28 Federal and 18 state ministers.
Abbasi on Thursday held six-hour-long consultations with ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif at Punjab House in Lahore.
Apart from Asif, Ahsan Iqbal former Planning Minister will take charge of the key Interior Ministry, that was earlier with Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
Nisar Khan has refused to be part of the new government.
Ishaq Dar will continue as Finance Minister whereas Pervez Malik will be the new Minister for Commerce. Malik replaces Khurram Dastagir Khan, who will be the new Defence Minister.
Daniyal Aziz, Talal Chaudhry, Arshad Leghari and Junaid Anwar Chaudhry are among the new faces in Abbasi’s cabinet.
Marriyum Aurangzeb, the Information Minister; Zahid Hamid, the Law Minister; and Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, in charge of the Capital Administration and Development Division, retained their previous portfolios.
PML-N’s information secretary Mushahidullah Khan was appointed as the Minister of Climate Change.
The anxiously-awaited oath-taking ceremony earlier saw an unexpected postponement on Wednesday after the ruling PML-N’s top leaders could not finalise the candidates to be inducted as cabinet members.
The PML-N top leadership had been holding marathon huddles during the past many days. Besides finalising Abbasi’s cabinet, the party leadership has been having brainstorming sessions to devise the future course of action.
Sources in the party say the Shahbaz Sharif is reluctant to leave Punjab – the province he has been governing since 2008 with an iron grip. Close circles of Shahbaz claim that the Chief Minister feels his continuation in Punjab is important given the next General Elections are less than a year away.
The federal cabinet was dissolved after Nawaz Sharif stepped down following a landmark Supreme Court ruling on the Panama Papers case.
The court in its July 28 verdict unseated Sharif from holding the post of Prime Minister.