If one was to ask Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, he would be adamant that “his” Prime Minister is still Nawaz Sharif. The 19th Prime Minister has gone to great lengths to clarify that he is just a “keeping the seat warm” for the eventual party nominee, and that he still takes direction from the senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership when making decisions.

However, three weeks into the new job it looks like Mr Abbasi is here to stay (at least till the next term) and not as passive as he publically states. Perhaps it is time to look at the performance of the ‘placeholder’ Prime Minister.

His first 20 days do not sit well with his self-appointed title – Mr Abbasi has been pro-active and involved in several departments that fall under his purview. His primary job was to keep the business of the state running while PML-N deals with its leadership crisis, and so far Mr Abbasi has ensured that the state keeps ticking; legislative sessions are being convened – and attended by him in person – committees are regularly meeting, and the bureaucracy continuing with its operations. In his appearances as the head of state he is diplomatic and articulate, and most importantly, not confrontational like the rest of his party.

Of course, keeping the government running is the minimum requirement for the position of chief executive; what matters more is how Mr Abbasi has conducted himself outside of his pre-defined duties. In his inauguration speech, the new Prime Minister surprised many by adding several items to his agenda – chief among them being a ban on all automatic weapons and widening of the tax net. While the cabinet may be divided over automatic weapons ban, Mr Abbasi can be commended for getting the ball rolling on the issue in such an expedited manner.

However, not every action has been well managed or benign. The Prime Minister gave into partisan politics when he reconstituted the Council of Common Interests (CCI) to take away seats from Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and give them to Punjab; giving the province an overwhelming majority. He has also failed to effectively deal with the agitation by oil transportation lobbies, which have refused to comply with government safety regulations. Holding the portfolio for the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, Ministry of Energy and the Prime Ministership, it is imperative on Mr Abbasi to solve this crisis, as it will be his responsibility if it continues to fester the way it has done.

Within three weeks, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has proven himself to be an astute politician at the least, if not a bipartisan reconciliatory one. Despite his best attempts, comparisons with Nawaz Sharif are inevitable, and so far the hands-on Mr Abbasi is coming off as more Prime Ministerial than the detached Nawaz Sharif was.