ISLAMABAD - After facing a crushing defeat from PTI chief Imran Khan in NA-56 constituency elections that eventually confined him to his house in Satellite Town, Rawalpindi, for a year, PML-N's stalwart Hanif Abbasi now rules the roost in twin cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad.
Abbasi's appointment this month by Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif as Chairman of the committee overseeing the much-trumpeted multi-billion rupees Metro Bus Project has stunned his political opponents who until recently were rejoicing his defeat in Rawalpindi.
The PML-N leader who lost his control over civic agencies in Rawalpindi after outsmarted by Imran in the elections last year, currently not only controls executing agencies in the garrison city but also the powerful Capital Development Authority (CDA) in Islamabad regarding issues related to the bus project worth Rs 46 billion.
"Hanif Abbasi now owns more than he lost in Rawalpindi. He holds sway over all the government entities engaged in construction work for the bus project," a senior government official told The Nation on Thursday.
Both government-owned and military-run entities like National Logistic Cell (NLC), National Engineering Services (NesPak), Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA), CDA, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and even utility services providers like gas and Wapda authorities have to remain in touch with Abbasi during the execution of the project.
"Yes, I hold meetings with Chairman CDA and other concerned departments for timely execution of the project. CM Shahbaz Sharif has entrusted this responsibility to me keeping in view the importance of the project," Abbasi told this reporter adding his rivals were not happy to see him active once again.
While Imran risked his Peshawar seat and did not vacate NA-56 in an effort to deprive Abbasi of a chance to contest again from Rawalpindi, posters and portraits of Abbasi welcoming him on his new assignment currently swamp the constituency represented by Khan.
From Rawalpindi Saddar to Jinnah Avenue in Islamabad, Hanif Abbasi could be seen supervising the development work on the track of the bus service directing government officials and contractors on issues pertaining to the biggest-ever public transport service in the twin cities.
Abbasi not only supervises the development side of the project but also counters the criticism of political opponents on the transport service and in this regard, he is helped by Directorate of Public Relations (DPR), which comes up almost daily with press statements attributed to Chairman of the Metro Bus.
While PTI's lawmaker from Islamabad Asad Umar questions the expensive cost of the project and Senator Mushahid Hussain of PML-Q terming the project an environmental disaster besides having it challenged in Supreme Court, Abbasi says nothing is wrong in the project.
"Where was Mushahid Hussain when Agha Shahi Avenue was being built on the green belt during Musharraf regime? We are building the track along the same avenue so no green belt is being disturbed," Abbasi said.
Officials in the executing agencies of Rawalpindi-Islamabad told The Nation seeking anonymity that Hanif Abbasi wielded much influence in the government departments of the twin cities due to the bus project.
"We are always alert to the call of the chairman. We can't disappoint Hanif Abbasi who oversees a project that has been proposed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. We have to obey him," a senior government official remarked.
His appointment as chairman of the overseeing committee of Metro Bus Project has invited criticism from opponents who think the PML-N's regime was behind empowering a defeated candidate.
"It makes no sense to entrust supervising responsibility of a project to a person when government-run consultants do the same job. It seems as if Shahbaz Sharif has no trust in NLC, NesPak, CDA and RDA and other government departments," MNA Sheikh Rashid told this reporter.
"My opponents tried their best to drag me out from Rawalpindi but to no avail. I will continue to serve people. At present NA-56 is represented by nobody but a politician who has never paid a visit after winning the seat," Abbasi maintained.