ISLAMABAD: The newly-elected Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is likely to retain all those ministers who had served under Nawaz Sharif, with the exception of a few.
Former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is unlikely to rejoin the cabinet under the leadership of the ‘interim’ prime minister.
Other members of the cabinet are expected to take oath with the same portfolios they were holding till Friday when Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court as prime minister and his cabinet stood dissolved.
According to sources in the PML-N, Nisar may rejoin the cabinet, but only after a ‘regular’ prime minister – most likely Shehbaz Sharif – takes charge for the rest of the ruling party’s tenure till June 2018.
As a makeshift arrangement, the additional charge of the interior ministry can be assigned to Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman, who was minister of state for interior in the previous cabinet or to former minister for states and frontier regions (Safron) Abdul Qadir Baloch.
“The cabinet formed by Mian Sahib would function the same way, barring one or two portfolios,” said a source, who is also expected to rejoin the cabinet.
Ishaq Dar, who remained one of the most powerful ministers in the ruling camp, may resume his responsibilities as finance minister but his fate remains uncertain owing to a reference moved in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as ordered by the Supreme Court in the Panamagate case.
In case Dar does not rejoin the cabinet, Abbasi’s government would be facing a major challenge to pick a new finance minister.
Unlike the PM’s ‘interim’ cabinet, Shehbaz’s future cabinet is expected to see some major changes amid reports that he is inclined towards bringing his own team of confidantes.
Some party circles believe Khawaja Asif and Dar, who reportedly don’t enjoy cordial terms with Shehbaz, may not be in his cabinet.
According to sources, Shehbaz who, unlike his elder brother, is known to be on good terms with the security establishment may take certain steps to ‘accommodate’ security bosses with the appointment of a ‘regular’ defence minister and foreign minister.
In the cabinet of elder Sharif, a regular defence minister was not appointed. Instead, the defence ministry’s additional charge was assigned to Asif, who is known for his critical views about the security establishment.
This is said to be one of the key reasons of differences between the security apparatus and the civil government since the latter came into power in June 2013.
Moreover, reports often did rounds in the past that the security establishment wanted Sharif to appoint a foreign minister which he did not.
The former prime minister assigned his close aides Sartaj Aziz and Tariq Fatemi to run the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as PM’s adviser on foreign affairs and special assistant, respectively.
“I think Shehbaz would not adopt the practices his brother followed that ended up in offending the power centres. He would be somewhat accommodating,” the PML-N source said.
In Punjab, the provincial cabinet is not either expected to see major changes in the near future in case any of Rana Sanaullah, Hamza Shehbaz or Bilal Yasin is appointed as chief minister.
However, in case Nisar is appointed to the top slot in the province, he may make appointments as per his choice.
Currently, the four mentioned names are under consideration for the slot of Punjab chief minister, according to sources.
Source: Express Tribune