Pakistan’s new Cabinet takes oath after Nawaz Sharif’s removal

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

:: Forty-three members of new Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s Cabinet were sworn in on Friday by President Mamnoon Hussain.

Abbasi was elected interim prime minister on Aug. 1, winning an unprecedented number of votes in Parliament after then-Prime Minister Mohammed Nawaz Sharif was ordered disqualified on July 28 by Pakistan’s Supreme Court over concealment of assets which he should have declared to the Election Commission of Pakistan when submitting nomination papers for the country’s 2013 elections.

Sources have suggested Abassi could remain in power beyond the 45-day interim period.

With only a few portfolios reshuffled, several members of Sharif’s Cabinet retained their positions.

Siddiqul Farooq, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) (PML-N) and a trusted aide to Sharif, declined to comment on the new Cabinet when contacted by Arab News.

Khawaja Muhammad Asif has been appointed minister for foreign affairs. He was previously defense minister. Following the 2013 elections, Sharif failed to name a foreign minister, and filled the roll himself.

“The decision to appoint (Sharif’s) trusted lieutenant (Asif), will help streamline much of the work at the foreign office,” political analyst Qamar Cheema told Arab News.

He said the appointment of a foreign minister shows a shift in PML-N’s strategy, adding that Sharif kept the vital portfolio to himself to avoid military intervention in foreign affairs.

Cheema concluded that, unlike Sharif, neither Abbasi nor Asif has any grievance with the country’s military.

Elsewhere in the Cabinet, Khurram Dastgir Khan has been appointed defense minister, and his former portfolio as minister for commerce has been handed to Muhammad Pervaiz Malik.

Ishaq Dar, although facing allegations of money laundering and tax evasion, will continue as minister for finance.

Ahsan Iqbal, formerly minister for planning and development, has taken over from Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan as minister for interior, while Mushahid Ullah Khan has been given charge of the Ministry of Climate Change.

Prime Minster Abbasi, in his post-election address to Parliament, vowed to improve the country’s situation: “I am the country’s prime minister. If I am here for 45 days, I will do 45 months work in this time.”

He also promised to rid the country of its gun culture, stressing that he will do away with automatic weapons.

“News of Abbasi continuing as prime minister would definitely boost the confidence of people,” Cheema concluded. “This is a good sign, and hopefully detrimental policies will be avoided by this new government.”

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