New Pakistan PM names big Cabinet with eye on polls

ISLAMABAD • Pakistan's new Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi yesterday formed a big Cabinet filled with allies of toppled leader Nawaz Sharif, in a reshuffle apparently aimed at boosting support ahead of general elections due in the middle of next year.

Mr Ishaq Dar returns as finance minister, despite a criminal investigation ordered against him by the Supreme Court. Another staunch Sharif ally, Mr Khawaja Asif, is to become foreign minister after having simultaneously run the defence and power ministries.

Mr Ahsan Iqbal, who heads a commission tasked with building the Beijing-funded US$57 billion (S$77 billion) China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, has been appointed as interior minister.

The Cabinet has almost doubled in size to 47 members, who were sworn in during a televised ceremony, after a reading from the Quran in the Muslim-majority nation of 190 million people.

Mr Sharif resigned last week after the Supreme Court disqualified him for not declaring a source of income that he denies receiving.

He retains control of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, and he put forward Mr Abbasi as temporary premier until his brother Shahbaz becomes eligible to take over through winning a parliamentary by-election.

Since Mr Abbasi took over, however, the party leadership no longer seems sure about that plan, as some fear Mr Shahbaz Sharif's departure from his post as Punjab chief minister could weaken the party's grip on a core base of voters.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2017, with the headline 'New Pakistan PM names big Cabinet with eye on polls'. Print Edition | Subscribe