Shahid Khaqan makes impressive start as new PM

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Salahuddin Haider

ANXIETY that Pakistan would be destabilized once Nawaz Sharif was to be ousted, seems to evaporate much more speedily than had been thought. State administration has been smooth, in fact considerable progress in different segments have been noticed which is a happy augury, a promise and blessing in disguise.
Reason for that is simple. Nawaz’s replacement, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, has already proven his mettle. His previous administration as PIA chairman, though subjected to criticism sometime, was more or less prejudiced and biased, looked through coloured glasses. He was a successful administrator, and then being the son of a senior air force officer, he had inherited fine-tuned management habit. I had been in contact with him for a long time as chief of the national carrier, and even then after he had sacrificed the 2002 elections or referendum of General Pervez Musharraf.
He has already taken a substantial leap forward, taking over responsibilities of development from finance minister Ishaq Dar, assuming the authority as chairman of economic committee of the cabinet, and also as a member of the privatization committee.
Not only that, he almost enlivened the traditional sick and lethargic bureaucracy, tutored hem to realize their obligations for being servants of the people, summoned meetings after meetings, even of national security council with high military officers, ready to assist the democratic dispensation.
Politically also, his movements were swift. Soon after Nawaz long rally from Islamabad to Lahore ended after marathon 72 hour, he came to Karachi to pay the overdue homage to the father of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, laid a wreath there, and then saw former colleague Ghous Ali Shah, and MQM leadership. Obviously his party PML(N), intact, as supreme court had merely acted against Sharif family, needed greater focus on provinces, other than the party’s power base of the Punjab. His meeting, for sometime one-on-one showed that the party needed to expand its wings to all the four provinces. Old theory which Nawaz had propounded of allowing the opposition parties in Sindh or KPK, now needed a review. PML(N) would now like to have a majority and its own administration throughout Pakistan for better State goernance.
This is indeed laudable, needed to be appreciated, for a party with government all over the country, not just in Islamabad and Punjab, has to have its own management for smoother State management. That surely does not mean, denying the majority of its right. Nawaz had adhered to principles in the past, and his successor, to remain in office till next elections in 2018. But sometime generosity is misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misused. Noon League perhaps has learnt or wants to learn lessons from the past.However much would depend on elections results.
Perhaps the biggest change in the government approach , which can also be described as distancing from the past, was visible when the premier met Dr Farooq Sattar, and mayor Waseem Akhtar to personally acquaint himself with their problems. Much before Abassi’s election as the new leader of the house, Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif has telephoned MQM leader Farooq Sattar for support to Abbasi at the time of voting in the national assembly.
Obviously some guarantees must have been sought, Insiders report that MQM refrained from discussing power sharing or accepting ministries at the Centre. It, instead, preferred for development funds for Karachi and Hyderabad, where its vote bank was in overwhelming number.
The Premier agreed to fund their projects for the two cities from the federal exchequer, out of the box solutions of giving money in addition to that already agreed upon for federating units from the national finance commission.
He even promised that the pledge he was giving to MQM, would not suffer from bureaucratic red tapism. Time proved beyond any shadow of doubt that he acted with speed, got Rs 30 billion approved from the cabinet—Rs 25 billion for Karachi, which needed fire tenders, new hospitals, colleges, and a university in Hyderabad city. All these were promised by the ousted prime minister during his visits to Sindh and Karachi territories.
Abbasi knew that MQM had to be on board for next elections, for its votes by 25 members of the National Assembly at the time of his election as Nawaz successor, counted in quantity and quality, Fears of PML(N) members breaking away had to be jealously guarded.
There were luckily no desertions as the party still stands intact and behind Nawaz, although some talk has been on lately of groupings in the party, but there is no authentic information. These therefore had to be dismissed as mere rumours, not worth commenting upon.
The prime minister also assured MQM that various stages through which the project funding had to go through like economic coordination committee of the National Economic Council, the central development working party (CDWP), would be monitored by himself and none else so that money is released within the shortest possible time. This was a huge favour to MQM, which had been victimized by the Sindh administration of Peoples Party.
The prime minister promised, after listening to mayor about scarcity of fire tenders to provide 50 new fire tenders to Karachi, and a new college and hospital in Karachi, a new university in Hyderabad city, which the PPP seems allergic to, for there was a full fledged university since 50s at Jamshoro. But Hyderabad city was feeling neglected in admission policies.
The new prime minister has acceded to their demands, or aspirations,whatever it could be called.
Almost daily Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is presiding series of meetings to keep the bureaucracy on its toes, and not allowing them to forestall fulfillment of popular aspirations, After all, people look to the government for solution of their problems> Abbasi is rising to the occasion.