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Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (Urdu: شاہد خاقان عباسی‎; born 27 December 1958) is a Pakistani politician who has served as 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 of the National Assembly from 1988 to 1999.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.jpg
Prime Minister of Pakistan
Assumed office
1 August 2017
President Mamnoon Hussain
Preceded by Nawaz Sharif
Minister for Energy
Assumed office
4 August 2017
President Mamnoon Hussain
Preceded by Position established
Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources
In office
7 June 2013 – 28 July 2017
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif
Preceded by Asim Hussain
Succeeded by Jam Kamal Khan (Minister of State)
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 the 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 Parliament
Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan
Assumed office
June 2013
Constituency NA-50 (Rawalpindi)
Majority 80,692
In office
2008–2013
Constituency NA-50 (Rawalpindi)
Majority 99,987
In office
1997–1999
Constituency NA-50 (Rawalpindi)
Majority 65,194 (58.5%)
In office
1993–1996
Constituency NA-50 (Rawalpindi)
Majority 76,596
In office
1990–1993
Constituency NA-50 (Rawalpindi)
Majority 80,305 (58.9%)
In office
1988–1990
Constituency NA-50 (Rawalpindi)
Majority 47,295 (34.3%)
Personal details
Born (1958-12-27) 27 December 1958 (age 58)
Karachi, Pakistan
Political party Pakistan Muslim League (N)
Relatives Khaqan Abbasi (Father)
Sadia Abbasi (Sister)
Alma mater University of California, Los Angeles
George Washington University
Website Government website

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.

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

Contents

Early life and education

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

Abbasi was educated in Karachi before enrolling at the Lawrence College in Murree.[5][7][10] In 1978, Abbasi attended the University of California, Los Angeles, to study electrical engineering[11] from where he attained his bachelor’s degree[4][2] and began his career as an electrical engineer.[7] In 1985, he attended the George Washington University, and gained a master's degree in electrical engineering.[5][2][7][12][13]

After graduating from George Washington, Abbasi became a profession electrical engineer.[14] He worked in the United States during the 1980s, before moving to Saudi Arabia[2][6][15] where he joined the oil and gas industry and became involved in energy projects.[4][7][5]

Early political career

Abbasi's political career was began after the death of his father Khaqan Abbasi in 1988.[5][14] In May 1988, President of Pakistan Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq sacked the government of his handpicked Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo, and prematurely dissolved the National Assembly of Pakistan.[16] Consequently, new parliamentary elections were called for 16 November 1988.[17] Abbasi ran for the seat of National Assembly from the Constituency NA-50 (Rawalpindi), the seat previously held by his father until his death[18][19] and was successfully elected with 47,295 votes as an independent candidate.[14][12][20][14] He acquired the Rawalpindi's National Assembly seat for the first time at the age of 30 by defeating Raja Zafar ul Haq, a candidate of Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) candidate Raja Muhammad Anwar by narrow margin.[14] 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 PPP.[22] His tenure as 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 then President of Pakistan Ghulam Ishaq Khan.[23][24]

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-50 (Rawalpindi). He bagged 80,305 votes against 54,011 votes of PPP candidate Raja Muhammad Anwar.[14] Upon the victory of IJI in the 1990 national election,[26] he was made Parliamentary Secretary for Defence,[12] a post he retained until his tenure as Member of the National Assembly was terminated after the dissolution of the National Assembly in April 1993[27] due to the dismissal of the Nawaz Sharif government by then President of Pakistan Ghulam Ishaq Khan.[24]

New snap elections were called for 6 October 1993,[25] Abbasi ran for a seat of National Assembly as a candidate of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML (N)) and was successfully re-elected for the third time from Constituency NA-50 (Rawalpindi) in Pakistani general elections, 1993.[14] He secured 76,596 votes against the candidate of PPP, Colonel (retired) Habib Khan who bagged 45,173 votes.[14] As Member of the National Assembly, he performed his duties as the Chairman of the Standing Committee of National Assembly on Defense.[12][28] His tenure as Member of the National Assembly was terminated after the dissolution of the National Assembly in 1996[23] due to the dismissal of the Benazir Bhutto government by then President of Pakistan Farooq Leghari.[24]

After new parliamentary elections were called for 3 February 1997,[25] Abbasi ran for a seat of National Assembly as a candidate of the PML (N) and was successfully retained his seat from Constituency NA-50 (Rawalpindi) for the fourth tim.[14] He defeated Pakistan Muslim League (J) canadiaite, Babar Awan and an independent candidate Javed Iqbal Satti by securing 65,194 votes.[14] His party, 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 the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.[13][30][28][31] 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 Nawaz Sharif and his existing elected government.[32] Abbasi along with Nawaz Sharif was named in the infamous plane hijacking case.[33] National Assembly was abolished, consequently ending the Abbasi's membership of the National Assembly.[34] Charges were leveled up against Abbasi for denying the landing of Musharraf's PIA plane at the Karachi's Jinnah International Airport on his way back from Sri Lanka on 12 October, 1999[35][14] and held responsible for conspiring with Nawaz Sharif to kill Pervez Musharraf.[36] Abbasi was pressured to provide a testimonial statement against Nawaz Sharif for the hijacking case, but he refused to release the statement.[18][37] He was also pressured to switch allegiance from Nawaz Sharif, however he refused.[38] Abbasi stood a military Judge Advocate General court, which announced his arrest.[35] He remained in jail for two years[6] before he was acquitted by the court in March 2001.[13] By then, Nawaz Sharif had gone into exile in Saudi Arabia.[39] In 2008, Abbasi in an interview claimed Musharraf himself took control of the plane in 1999.[40][4] As chairman of PIA, he was accused of ₨11 million corruption in the purchase of 200 computers for the airline, however he was acquitted in 2008 as prosecution failed to prove charges levelled against him.[30]

General elections were held on 10 October 2002 under Pervez Musharraf to elect the National Assembly.[41] Abbasi ran for a seat of the National Assembly from Constituency NA-50 (Rawalpindi) as a candidate of the PML (N), but was unsuccessful for the first time after he lost to Ghulam Murtaza Satti, a candidate of PPP.[14][20][32] He came second to incumbent Ghulam Murtaza Satti by 63,797 votes (37.21%) to 74,259 (43.31%).[14][42] Abbasi indicated that exile of Nawaz Sharif disappointed the people[14] due to which PML (N) only won 19 out of 342 seats in the National Assembly.[43] People from his constituency claim Abbasi contested the election unwillingly due to which he lost it.[44] After his defeat, he distanted himself from politics and turn his focus on Airblue Limited[44] which he founded in 2003.[6][2] He served as its first chairman until 2007[4][28][45] and then went on to become its chief operating officer.[46] According to BBC Urdu, Abbasi had close contacts with Shujaat Hussain, leader of then rulling party, and from whom Abbasi gained support for his airline.[44]

After Nawaz Sharif return to Pakistan from exile in Saudi Arabia in 2007,[47] Abbasi joined him[44] and ran for a seat in the National Assembly in general election held on 18 February 2008 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).[48] The election resulted in a hung parliament where PPP had secured the largest seats in the National Assembly and PML (N), second largest.[49][50] After the formation of a coalition government between PPP and PML (N) with Yousaf Raza Gillani as Prime Minister of Pakistan,[51] Abbasi was inducted into the federal cabinet of Yousaf Raza Gillani with the status of a federal minister in March 2008 and was appointed as the Minister for Commerce[12][52][32] however, he resigned from the ministerial office[53] after PML (N) left the PPP led coalition government in May 2008[52][32][54] to lead the movement to impeach Pervez Musharraf and to restore judiciary.[55]

After the completion of five-year PPP government, election was scheduled for 11 May 2013.[56] Abbasi ran for a seat of the National Assembly as a candidate of the PML (N) and successfully retained his seat from Constituency NA-50 (Rawalpindi) for the sixth time with 80,692 votes.[57][58] 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.[59] During his tenure as Minister for Petroleum, he introduced Liquefied Natural Gas terminal and importation of gas in Pakistan to control the shortage of gas in the country.[5][7] In 2015, Abbasi was accused for issuing illegal contracts worth 220 billion (US$2.1 billion) for the import and distribution of Liquefied Natural Gas without proper bidding process after which the National Accountability Bureau registered a case and began an investigation.[60][61] However the case was closed in 2016[62] after it was found that all rules were followed during procurement and the bidding process to award contract was transparent.[60] The Express Tribune described the LNG project as successful and one of the cheapest regasification in the world.[60] Abbasi also denied the corruption allegations.[63] Abbasi had ceased to hold ministerial office of Petroleum and Natural Resources on 28 July 2017 when the cabinet of Nawaz Sharif was disbanded following his resignation after the Panama Papers case decision.[18][64][65]

Prime Minister

Election

Following the resignation of Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister in late July 2017, Nawaz Sharif 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[66][67][13] 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.[68][69]

On 1 August 2017, Abbasi was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan by the National Assembly, defeating his rival Naveed Qamar of PPP, by 221 votes to 47.[70][71] Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (F)[72] and Muttahida Qaumi Movement also supported Abbasi's election.[70] Addressing to the National Assembly after election as Prime Minister, Abbasi 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."[73] On that same day, he was sworn in as the Prime Minister in an oath-taking ceremony at Presidency Palace.[74] After Abbasi took charge of the prime ministerial office, it was decided by Nawaz Sharif that Shehbaz Sharif will remain in Punjab while Abbasi to continue as Prime Minister of Pakistan until the 2018 general election due to held in June 2018.[75] 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[76][77][78][79] which has strong 183 out of total 342 seats in the National Assembly[80] and play a crucial role in determining the future government in Pakistan.[81]

Cabinet

After assuming the office as the Prime Minister, Abbasi in consultation with the outgoing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, formed his cabinet comprising 43 members.[82][83] Of the 43 ministers sworn in on 4 August 2017, 27 were federal ministers and, 16 were ministers of state.[84].[85] Except 16, all of the cabinet members were part of the last cabinet of Nawaz Sharif, most of whom retained their previous portfolios.[86] The cabinet was criticised by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf over its large size[87] however it was praised by The Nation.[88] Reuters described the cabinet of Abbasi "appears aimed at bolstering support ahead of 2018 general election."[89] In order to improve the governance[90] and efficiency of the government and to accommodate newly-inducted cabinet members,[91] Abbasi created seven new ministries[92] including an overdue Ministry of Energy which was praised.[93][38][90] The second part of Abbasi's cabinet, consisted 2 federal ministers and 2 ministers of state, was sworn in on 10 August 2017[94] thus increasing the size of the cabinet to its maximum limit of 47.[95] On 13 August 2017, the cabinet of Abbasi was further expanded after he appointed six advisers.[96][97] The next day, five special assistants for Prime Minister were appointed[98] thus increasing the cabinet size to 58.[96] Abbasi justified the large size of his cabinet saying that "he had limited experience of running the affairs of the government, and therefore required more ministers, advisers and special assistants."[96]

Abbasi appointed Khawaja Muhammad Asif as a full time Minister for Foreign Affairs which was for the first time since PML (N) came into power in 2013 general election.[99][100] The appointment of a full time Foreign Affair's Minister was welcomed by Pakistan Today[101] and Daily Times.[102] Previously, Nawaz Sharif held the portfolio of the Minister for Foreign Affairs with himself and was criticised for not appointing full fledged Foreign Minister.[103][99] Abbasi also inducted a Hindu parliamentarian Darshan Punshi into the federal cabinet, which was for the first time in more than 20 years.[104] Abbasi kept with himself the cabinet portfolios of Ministry of Planning and Development[105][90] and the newly created Ministry of Energy.[106][107][89] On 11 August 2017, he took charge of Economic Coordination Committee as chairman after removing Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar.[108]

First term

As Prime Minister, Abbasi visited Karachi on 12 October 2017 and pledged 25 billion (US$240 million) and 5 billion (US$47 million) for Karachi and Hyderabad, respectively for infrastructure development.[109]

Family and personal life

Abbasi belongs to family[18] from Kahuta.[107] He belongs to the Dhund Abbasi clan, which is predominant in northern Punjab.[110]

Abbasi is married and has three sons.[7][5] Abbasi’s father, Khaqan Abbasi, was an air commodore in the Pakistan Air Force. He entered politics and became 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 – a military accident that resulted in more than 100 casualties.[32][3] Abbasi’s brother, Zahid Abbasi, was also injured in that incident[3][9] after which he went into coma and died in 2005, having remained bedridden for 17 years.[111][112] Abbasi's sister Sadia Abbasi has been a member of the Senate of Pakistan.[3][9] Abbasi's father-in-law, General Muhammad Riaz Abbasi, was the director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) from 1977 to 1979.[3][9][18]

Abbasi is a businessman[113] and a known aviation expert in Pakistan.[114] Reportedly, Abbasi is the owner of Airblue which he founded in 2003[5] however he has denied being a current stakeholder, saying he has not visited the airline's office for years.[115][116] He is one of the richest parliamentarians in Pakistan,[117][18] with a net worth of 1.3 billion (US$12 million)[118] to 2.3 billion (US$22 million).[119] His assets include shares in Airblue, a house in Islamabad, a restaurant business, and land properties in Murree.[118][120] He is also an aviation enthusiast and an amateur skydiver.[121] According to DAWN, he is a reserved and media-shy person.[122]

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Government offices
Preceded by
Farooq Umar
Chair of the 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
Jam Kamal Khan
as Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Resources
Preceded by
Position established
Minister for Energy
2017–present
Incumbent
Preceded by
Nawaz Sharif
Prime Minister of Pakistan
2017–present
Incumbent