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Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

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Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (cropped).jpg
Prime Minister of Pakistan
Assumed office
1 August 2017
President Mamnoon Hussain
Preceded by Nawaz Sharif
Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources
In office
7 June 2013 – 28 July 2017
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
Preceded by Asim Hussain
Succeeded by Himself (Energy)
Minister for Commerce
In office
31 March 2008 – 13 May 2008
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani
Preceded by Humayun Akhtar Khan
Succeeded by Ameen Faheem
Chair of Pakistan International Airlines
In office
27 December 1997 – 12 October 1999
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
Preceded by Farooq Umar
Succeeded by Ahmad Saeed
Member of the National Assembly
for Constituency NA-50
Assumed office
2008
Preceded by Ghulam Murtaza Satti
Majority 2008: 99,987 (48%)
2013: 134,439 (54%)
Member of the National Assembly
for Constituency NA-36
In office
1988–2002
Preceded by Khaqan Abbasi
Succeeded by Ghulam Murtaza Satti
Majority 1988: 47,295 (34%)
1990: 80,305 (59%)
1993: 76,596 (56%)
1997: 65,194 (58%)
Personal details
Born (1958-12-27) 27 December 1958 (age 58)
Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan
Political party Pakistan Muslim League (N)
Other political
affiliations
Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (1988–1990)
Children 3
Father Khaqan Abbasi
Relatives Sadia Abbasi (Sister)
Alma mater Lawrence College
University of California, Los Angeles
George Washington University
Signature
Website Government website

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (Urdu: شاہد خاقان عباسی‎; born 27 December 1958) is a Pakistani politician who has been the Prime Minister of Pakistan since August 2017. A member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N), he has been a Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan since 2008 and previously had been a member from 1988 to 1999.

Born in 1958 in Karachi to Khaqan Abbasi, Abbasi was educated at Lawrence College, Murree. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, before obtaining a master's degree from George Washington University. Prior to entering politics, he worked as a professional engineer in various projects in the United States and in the Middle East.

Abbasi started his political career after the death of his father in 1988, and since then he has been elected a Member of the National Assembly six times for Constituency NA-50 (Rawalpindi). After the PML-N victory in the 1997 general election, he served as Chairman of Pakistan International Airlines until the 1999 Pakistani coup d'état. After the formation of a coalition government following the 2008 general election, he was briefly the Minister for Commerce in the Gillani ministry. After the 2013 general election, he became the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources in the third Sharif ministry, where he served from 2013 until the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after the Panama Papers case decision in July 2017. In August 2017, he took the office of Prime Minister, becoming the youngest prime minister of Pakistan in history.

Early life and education

Abbasi was born on 27 December 1958[1][2][3][4] in Karachi, Sindh, to Khaqan Abbasi.[5][6][7] According to some Pakistani daily newspapers, he was born in his hometown of Murree in Rawalpindi District, Punjab.[4][8][9]

Abbasi was educated in Karachi before enrolling at Lawrence College in Murree.[6][7][10] In 1978, he attended the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering.[3][5][11] Following this, he began a career as an electrical engineer.[7] In 1985, he attended George Washington University, where he gained a master's degree in Electrical Engineering.[3][6][7][12]

After graduating from George Washington University, Abbasi became a professional electrical engineer.[13] He worked in the United States during the 1980s before moving to Saudi Arabia,[3][14][15] where he worked on energy projects in the oil and gas industry.[5][6][7]

Parliamentary career

First term: 1988–90

Abbasi's political career began after the death of his father Khaqan Abbasi in 1988.[6][13] In May 1988, President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq sacked the government of his handpicked Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo, and prematurely dissolved the National Assembly.[16] Consequently, new parliamentary elections were called for 16 November 1988.[17] Abbasi ran for the National Assembly seat from Constituency NA-36 (Rawalpindi-I),[a] which had been held by his father until his death.[18][19] Abassi was elected with 47,295 votes as an independent candidate.[12][13][20] He acquired Rawalpindi's National Assembly seat for the first time at the age of 30 by defeating both Raja Zafar ul Haq, a candidate of Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidate Raja Muhammad Anwar by a narrow margin.[13] After winning the election he joined the IJI,[21] which was newly founded in September 1988 by then Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence to counter the PPP.[22] His tenure as a Member of the National Assembly terminated after the National Assembly was dissolved prematurely in August 1990 following the dismissal of the government of Benazir Bhutto by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.[23][24]

Second, third and fourth term: 1990–99

New parliamentary elections were called for 24 October 1990.[25] Abbasi ran for a National Assembly seat as a candidate of IJI and was successfully re-elected from Constituency NA-36 (Rawalpindi-I). He received 80,305 votes against 54,011 votes for PPP candidate Raja Muhammad Anwar.[13] Upon the victory of IJI in the 1990 national election,[26] he was made Parliamentary Secretary for Defence,[12] a post he retained until the dissolution of the National Assembly in April 1993[27] with the dismissal of the Nawaz Sharif government by then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan.[24]

New snap elections were called for 6 October 1993.[25] Abbasi ran for a National Assembly seat as a candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N) and was re-elected for the third time from Constituency NA-36 (Rawalpindi-I).[13] He secured 76,596 votes against the PPP candidate, retired Colonel Habib Khan, who received 45,173 votes.[13] As a Member of the National Assembly, he performed his duties as the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Assembly on Defence.[12][28] His tenure was terminated with the dissolution of the National Assembly in 1996[23] following the dismissal of the Benazir Bhutto government by President Farooq Leghari.[24]

New parliamentary elections were called for 3 February 1997,[25] and Abbasi successfully retained his National Assembly seat as a candidate of the PML-N from Constituency NA-36 (Rawalpindi-I) for the fourth time.[13] He defeated Pakistan Muslim League (J) candidate Babar Awan and independent candidate Javed Iqbal Satti by securing 65,194 votes.[13] PML-N won a clear majority in the National Assembly for the first time.[29] That same year, he was appointed as the chairman of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.[30][28][31][32] During his two year time in office, he is credited for implementing long-term and comprehensive reforms in PIA and was able to get the airline out of debt.[33] His tenure as the Chairman of PIA was terminated following the 1999 Pakistani coup d'état, during which then-Chief of Army Staff, General Pervez Musharraf, overthrew Sharif and his existing elected government.[34] His tenure as Member of the National Assembly was also terminated with the dissolution of the assembly.[35] Abbasi, along with Sharif, was named in the infamous plane hijacking case.[36] Charges were leveled against him for denying the landing of Musharraf's PIA plane at Karachi's Jinnah International Airport on its way back from Sri Lanka on 12 October 1999,[13][37] and he was held responsible for conspiring with Sharif to kill Musharraf.[38] He was forced to provide a testimonial statement against Sharif for the hijacking case, but he refused to release the statement.[18][39] He was also pressured by the Pakistan Army to switch allegiance from Sharif, but he refused.[40] He remained in jail for two years[14] before he was released by the court in 2001.[30] By then, Sharif had gone into exile in Saudi Arabia.[41] In a 2008 interview, Abbasi claimed that Musharraf himself took control of the plane in 1999.[5][42] As chairman of PIA, he was accused of 11 million in corruption in the purchase of 200 computers for the airline, however he was acquitted in 2008 as prosecution failed to prove the charges levelled against him.[31]

Fifth and sixth term: 2002–13

General elections were held on 10 October 2002 under Musharraf to elect the National Assembly.[43] Abbasi ran for a seat from Constituency NA-50 (Rawalpindi) as a candidate of the PML-N, but lost to PPP candidate Ghulam Murtaza Satti[13][20][34] with 63,797 votes (37.21%) to 74,259 (43.31%).[13][44] Abbasi indicated that the exile of Sharif disappointed the people,[13] due to which PML-N only won 19 out of 342 seats in the National Assembly.[45] People from his constituency claim he contested the election unwillingly, explaining why he lost it.[46] After his defeat, he distanced himself from politics to focus on Airblue Limited,[46] which he founded in 2003.[3][14] He served as its first chairman until 2007[5][28][47] and then went on to become its chief operating officer.[33][48] Abbasi was considered amongst the PML-N leaders who had contacts with the military at that time and whereas there is no evidence whether how Abbasi used his links and relationships with the military for political purposes, but he is said to have used the names of some general to some extent for benefits. He is also said to have had close contacts with Shujaat Hussain, leader of the then ruling party, and from whom Abbasi gained support for his airline.[46]

After Sharif's return to Pakistan from exile in 2007,[49] Abbasi joined him[46] and ran for a seat in the National Assembly in the 18 February 2008 general election as a candidate of the PML-N, and was successfully re-elected for the fifth time with 99,987 votes from Constituency NA-50 (Rawalpindi).[50] The election resulted in a hung parliament where PPP had secured the most seats in the National Assembly and PML-N the second most.[51][52] After the formation of a coalition government between PPP and PML-N with Yousaf Raza Gillani as Prime Minister,[53] Abbasi was inducted into the federal cabinet of Gillani with the status of a federal minister in March 2008 and was appointed as the Minister for Commerce.[12][34][54] However, his tenure as Minister for Commerce was short-lived after the PML-N left the PPP-led coalition government in May 2008[34][54][55][56] to lead the movement to impeach Pervez Musharraf and to restore the judiciary[57] after the coalition failed to restore the judiciary, as agreed between PML-N and PPP in the Bhurban Accord.[58]

Seventh term: 2013–17

After the completion of a five-year PPP government, an election was scheduled for 11 May 2013.[59] Abbasi ran for a seat in the National Assembly as a candidate of the PML-N and successfully retained his seat from Constituency NA-50 (Rawalpindi) for the sixth time[60] with 134,439 votes.[61] Upon the victory of PML-N in the 2013 national election, he was inducted into the federal cabinet and was appointed as the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Resources.[62] He was give the task to end the energy crisis in Pakistan.[46] During his tenure as Minister for Petroleum, he introduced a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal and the importation of gas in Pakistan to control the shortage of gas in the country.[6][7] He was credited for taking measures which helped Pakistan overcome gas shortage issues.[63] In 2015, he was accused of issuing illegal contracts worth 220 billion (US$2.1 billion) for the import and distribution of LNG without a proper bidding process, after which the National Accountability Bureau registered a case and began an investigation.[64][65] However, the case was closed in 2016[66] after it was found that all rules were followed during procurement and the bidding process to award the contract was transparent.[64] The Express Tribune described the LNG project as successful and one of the cheapest regasifications in the world.[64] He also denied the corruption allegations.[67] Abbasi ceased to hold the ministerial office of Petroleum and Natural Resources on 28 July 2017 when the Sharif cabinet was disbanded following his disqualification by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the Panama Papers case decision.[18][68][69] According to BBC Urdu, Abbasi had not became a part of any major political or financial controversy throughout his time in ministerial office. He was said to be involved in matters related to not only energy but also political.[46]

Prime Minister

Taking office

Nawaz Sharif resigned as Prime Minister on 29 July 2017 and nominated his brother Shehbaz Sharif as his successor, but as Shehbaz was not a member of the National Assembly, he could not be immediately sworn in as Prime Minister.[15] Therefore, Abbasi was chosen by Sharif as a temporary Prime Minister for 45 days,[30][70][71] which would allow two months time for Shehbaz to contest elections from Nawaz's vacated constituency in Lahore, be elected to the National Assembly, and become eligible to hold the office of Prime Minister.[72][73]

On 1 August 2017, Abbasi was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan by the National Assembly, defeating his rival Naveed Qamar of the PPP by 221 votes to 47.[74][75] He became the youngest Prime Minister of Pakistan at age of 58.[33] Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (F)[76] and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement also supported his election.[74] Addressing the National Assembly after his election, he said "I may be here for 45 days or 45 hours, but I'm not here to keep the seat warm. I intend to work and get some important things done."[77] On that same day, he was sworn in as the Prime Minister in an oath-taking ceremony at Presidency Palace.[78] After he took charge, Nawaz Sharif decided that Shehbaz Sharif would remain in Punjab and Abbasi would continue as Prime Minister until the 2018 general election to be held in June.[79] According to Rana Sanaullah Khan, PML-N senior leadership feared that abandonment of the post of Chief Ministership of Punjab by Shahbaz Sharif would weaken the party's hold in the country's most populous province,[80][81][82][83] which has 183 out of the 342 seats in the National Assembly[84] and plays a crucial role in determining the future government in Pakistan.[85]

Cabinet formation

Abbasi with members of his cabinet and the Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa

After assuming the office as the Prime Minister, Abbasi, in consultation with Sharif, formed a 43-member cabinet.[86][87] Of the 43 ministers sworn in on 4 August 2017, 27 were federal ministers and 16 were ministers of state.[88][89] All but 16 of the cabinet members were part of the last cabinet of Nawaz Sharif, most of whom retained their previous portfolios.[90] The cabinet was criticised by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf for its large size,[91] but it was praised by The Nation.[92] Reuters said that the cabinet "appears aimed at bolstering support" ahead of the general election.[93] In order to improve the governance[94] and efficiency of the government and to accommodate newly inducted cabinet members,[95] Abbasi created seven new ministries,[96] including a Ministry of Energy, which was praised.[40][94][97] The second part of his cabinet, consisting of two federal ministers and two ministers of state, was sworn in on 10 August 2017,[98] increasing the size of the cabinet to 47.[99] On 13 August 2017, his cabinet was further expanded after he appointed six advisers.[100][101] The next day, five special assistants to the Prime Minister were appointed,[102] thus increasing the cabinet size to 58.[100] He justified the large size of his cabinet by saying that "he had limited experience of running the affairs of the government, and therefore required more ministers, advisers and special assistants."[100] Two more advisors were added to the federal cabinet on 23 August 2017.[103]

Abbasi appointed Khawaja Muhammad Asif as a full-time Minister for Foreign Affairs, the first since PML-N came into power in the 2013 general election.[104][105] The appointment of a full-time Foreign Affair's Minister was welcomed by Pakistan Today[106] and the Daily Times.[107] Previously, Nawaz Sharif had held the portfolio of the Minister for Foreign Affairs himself and was criticised for not appointing a full-fledged Foreign Minister.[104][108] He also inducted a Hindu parliamentarian, Darshan Punshi, into the federal cabinet, the first in more than 20 years.[109] He kept for himself the cabinet portfolios of the newly created Ministry of Energy[93][110][111] and the Ministry of Planning and Development[94][112] however As of August 2017, Ministry of Energy was unable to initiate due to bureaucratic hurdles[113] and since September 2017, ministrial portfolio of Planning and Development was assigned to Ahsan Iqbal.[114] In November 2017, during the absence of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar from the country, Abbasi took charge of the Finance Ministry[115] after which Ishaq Dar step down from the ministerial office after taking a medical leave.[116][117]

Policies and initiatives

Abassi hosting Secretary Tillerson in Islamabad in October 2017

Immediately after getting elected as Prime Minister, Abbasi said that the security, tax reforms, agriculture, education, health services, infrastructure and development projects, and the country's power crisis would be his top concerns.[74]

Abbasi visited Karachi on 12 August 2017 and pledged 25 billion (US$240 million) and 5 billion (US$47 million) for Karachi and Hyderabad, respectively, for infrastructure development.[118] After the announcement of a new policy on Afghanistan by United States President Donald Trump, during which he accused Pakistan of supporting state terrorism,[119] Abbasi made his first foreign trip as Prime Minister, going to Saudi Arabia on 23 August 2017 to discuss the new U.S. policy with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and to further strengthen the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia,[120][121] with Pakistan's relationship with the United States being strained.[119]

In September 2017, Abbasi travelled to the United States to speak at the 72th session of the United Nations General Assembly. During the visit, he met with Vice President Mike Pence[122] and with President Trump.[123] In November 2017, the Ministry of Interior suspended the licences for all automatic firearms across Pakistan[124] as part of Abbasi’s policy to make Pakistan free of automatic weapons.[125]

On 28 November 2017, Abbasi and Minister for Interior Ahsan Iqbal were criticized by the Chairman of the Senate of Pakistan Raza Rabbani for striking a deal with the Tehreek-e-Labaik protestestors and for not taking the Senate in confidence with regards to the crackdown against them that led to resignation of Minister for Law and Justice, Zahid Hamid.[126][127][128]

Family and personal life

Abbasi belongs to a family[18] from Kahuta.[111] However, he hails from Dewal village.[129] He belongs to the Dhund Abbasi clan, which is predominant in northern Punjab.[130]

Abbasi is married and has three sons.[6][7] His father, Khaqan Abbasi, was an air commodore in the Pakistan Air Force. He entered politics and became a Member of the National Assembly[18] and was inducted as the Federal Minister for Production in the cabinet of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, until his death in 1988 at Ojhri Camp in a military accident that resulted in more than 100 casualties.[4][34] His brother, Zahid Abbasi, was also injured in that incident,[4][9] after which he went into coma and died in 2005, having remained bedridden for 17 years.[131][132] His sister Sadia Abbasi has been a member of the Senate of Pakistan.[4][9] His father-in-law, General Muhammad Riaz Abbasi, was the director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) from 1977 to 1979.[4][9][18]

He is also an aviation enthusiast and an amateur skydiver.[133] He is the first Prime Minister of Pakistan to participate in a Pakistan Air Force mission by flying in a F-16 Fighting Falcon[134] and a military helicopter.[135] In an interview, he said he has been a pilot for 40+ years.[136] He is said to be a reserved, and media-shy person.[137]

Business interests

Abbasi is a businessman[138] and an aviation expert.[139] He is the owner of Airblue, which he founded in 2003,[6] but in 2016, he has denied being a stakeholder, saying he has not visited the airline's office for years.[140][141] He is one of the richest parliamentarians in Pakistan,[18][142] with a net worth of 1.3 billion (US$12 million)[143] to 2.3 billion (US$22 million).[144] His assets include shares in Airblue, a house in Islamabad, a restaurant business, and land properties in Murree.[143][145]

Notes

  1. ^ NA-36 was later renamed NA-50.

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Government offices
Preceded by
Farooq Umar
Chair of Pakistan International Airlines
1997—1999
Succeeded by
Ahmad Saeed
Political offices
Preceded by
Humayun Akhtar Khan
Minister for Commerce
2008
Succeeded by
Ameen Faheem
Preceded by
Asim Hussain
Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources
2013—2017
Succeeded by
Himself
as Minister for Energy
Preceded by
Nawaz Sharif
Prime Minister of Pakistan
2017—present
Incumbent
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