Islamabad - It is confirmed that Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will continue as the Prime Minister for the remaining period of PML-N rule, till the elections of 2018.

After the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif in Panama case, Mr. Abbasi was nominated as PM for interim period till Shehbaz Sharif would be elected as MNA and become the permanent Prime Minister . Without a single voice of dissent, Mr. Abbasi secured his position with 221 votes in National Assembly. ( Ch. Nisar Ali Khan’s case is to be analyzed in different way).

US-qualified engineer, Mr. Abbasi has been elected MNA six times from NA-50 Murree, Kahuta and Kotli Sattiyan from 1988 to 2013. The only exception is that of 2002, because it was immediately after the release of Mr. Abbasi from Musharaf’s detention in “plan hijacking case”, as co-accused with Nawaz Sharif when he was defeated by PPP’s Ghulam Murtaza Satti. PM Abbasi’s has a background in both military and in politics. This makes him capable of ensuring smooth relations between the two wings.

PM Abbasi’s father air commodore ® Khaqan Abbasi was advisor of Royal Jordanian Air Force with former military dictator General Zia UL Haq in the late sixties. Afterwards, Khaqan Abbasi was forcibly relieved from Air Force by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He then moved to Jordan and with the support of Jordanian king landed hefty construction contracts in Saudi Arabia, turning into a billionaire.

In 1985, Khaqan Abbasi became a member of National assembly by defeating Raja Zafar Ul Haq, a close associate of General Zia. He joined PM Junejo’s cabinet as production minister thanks to his close relations with the general. However, when Junejo developed differences with Zia, Khaqan Abbasi along with two other president’s men, Dr. Mehboob ul Haq and Sahibzada Yaqoob Ali Khan, was ousted from the cabinet.

Khaqan Abbasi had close relations with the then ruling establishment. It was he who pushed General Zia for a political rapprochement with Ms. Benazir Bhutto and visited her in London to discuss the matter. His efforts failed when the latter refused any contact with the dictator.  During his brief political career of about two and a half years, he left a lasting mark in his constituency.

Two mega-development projects, Rawalpindi-Murree-Kohala road, and Patriata chairlift earned him popularity among the people of his constituency. In 1988, Khaqan Abbasi died in Ujrri Camp incident when a missile hit his car, and his elder son Zahid Khaqan Abbasi fell into a coma and died in same condition 18 years later. When Pir Pagarra wanted Choudri Pervez Ellahi as Chief Minister Punjab by replacing Nawaz Sharif, it was Khaqan Abbasi who persuaded General Zia to keep Nawaz on the seat. PM Abbasi’s father-in-law General Riaz Abbasi (late) was Director General of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) for a brief period from 1977 to 1979.

After the death of his father in Ujrri Camp accident and the serious illness of his only brother, Mr. Zahid Khaqan Abbasi, Shahid Abbasi joined politics by contesting election of National Assembly on his father’s seat as an independent candidate in 1988. hE defeated RAja Zafar Ul Haq of Pakistan Muslim League and Raja Muhammad Anwar of PPP. After winning election, Mr. Abbasi joined PML-N.

He also won the consequent elections of 1993 and 1997 and in 1997 and became chairman PIA.

When General Musharraf toppled Nawaz’s government in 1999, Mr. Abbasi was arrested and imprisoned for about two years.

Keeping in view his airforce background, he was forced to be approver against Nawaz Sharif, which he refused to do. For his loyalty, Mr. Abbasi was given the ministerial portfolio of petroleum and natural resources after the formation of PML-N government in 2013. When Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by apex judiciary in Panama Case, Mr. Abbasi was nominated as Prime Minister by Nawaz himself and the former got elected from National Assembly by securing 221 votes.

 Initially Mr. Abbasi was nominated as PM for an interim period, but after an exclusive meeting at the residence of Sharifs at Doonga Gali between PM Abbasi Nawaz Sharif and Shebaz Sharif, it was decided that Mr. Abbasi would continue till the term’s end. Reportedly in this conversation, Shehbaz wanted Ch. Nisar Ali as permanent PM which Abbasi refused, as was backed by Nawaz.

The key issues for PM Abbasi would be keeping the party united to sustain the majority, continuity of ongoing projects to muster the support in upcoming elections, and most importantly his relations with establishment.

Nawaz and his many close associates believe that their leader was ousted by behind the curtain maneuvering of some in the establishment. During his GT road rally, Nawaz talked about a “conspiracy” against him without naming anyone in particular. The Hawks in PML-N have been criticizing “conspiring” secret hands against their government. Islamabad sit-in by Imran Khan, trial against General ® Pervez Musharaf, Nawaz’s Indian policy, Dawn Leaks and controversial tweets and acts of former PM’s daughter Maryum Nawaz turned bone of contention between Nawaz and the some core elements in the establishment.

Under such circumstances, it will be critical for PM Abbasi to carry on smooth relations with the establishment without losing the confidence of his leader. The lamented slogans of “revolution” and criticism against Mr.Sharif, add to the challenges of PM Abbasi, especially keeping in consideration the former’s unpleasant hurl on Supreme Court. It would become clear in the days to come whether the slogans of “revolution” have any substance or are simply an excuse to get some space for the “royal” family.

PM Abbasi connections in the forces, owing to his family background would be favorable but keeping a balance might not be such a smooth sail. PM Abbasi’s calm temperament, seriousness towards work and a relatively clean image would be added qualities to deal with the present complex situation. Abbasi’s speech after getting elected in NA, his refusal to take protocol as well as the use of his photos on public advertisements all reflect well on his image.

He continues to live in his own house, has cut down on the expenditures of PM House, and changed the seating arrangement during his first meeting with COAS.  But, only the times to come will prove how successfully he plays the role of a Prime Minister .

–The writer is a freelance contributor




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