ISLAMABAD - After facing immense criticism over the absence of a full-fledged foreign minister, the government has finally decided to fill the slot and consultations are in final stages for Mr Ahsan Iqbal to be made as the minister for foreign affairs, The Nation has learned.

Federal Minister of Planning Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal was supposed to fly abroad Friday but at the eleventh hour was asked not to proceed, official sources told The Nation.

Ahsan Iqbal along with the federal minister for climate change Zahid Hamid was scheduled to fly to Mexico today to attend an international conference but on the directive of the Prime Minister he skipped the trip.

The sources close to the deliberations confirmed that the name of the planning minister is being considered for the portfolio of the foreign minister which is lying vacant since the coming of PML-N into power.

Currently, Sartaj Aziz and Tariq Fatemi are assisting the prime minister on foreign policy: Aziz is the advisor on foreign affairs while Fatemi is the special assistant to the prime minister.

The government has been facing persistent criticism from political parties since 2013 for its alleged inability to appoint a full-time foreign minister. Critics say the absence has significantly hampered government's efforts to internationally project the country’s concerns, especially with regards to arch-rival India and on Kashmir issue. The opposition parties are alleging that in the absence of the full-time foreign minister the government has been unable to pursue any effective diplomacy and is continuously facing failure on various international fronts.

The likely move to appoint Ahsan Iqbal as the foreign minister comes in the backdrop of successful implementation of various national level projects including the multi-billion dollars flagship project of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The government is also considering finding a suitable person for the post of Planning Minister who can run the affairs of the Planning Commission in an efficient manner, the officials said.