Islamabad: Senior PML-N leaders Ahsan Iqbal and Khwaja Asif are being tipped for the post of Foreign Minister following the party’s resounding victory in Pakistan’s general elections.
Sources said Iqbal, a 54-year-old graduate of the Wharton School of Business, and Asif, a 63-year-old former banker, were considered frontrunners for heading the crucial Foreign Ministry.
Both the parliamentarians from Punjab are considered to be very close to PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, who is set for an unprecedented third term as Pakistan’s Prime Minister.
Sharif has already signalled his intentions to improve relations with India, including greater economic ties.
Iqbal and Asif served as ministers in the cabinet of former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani when the Pakistan People’s Party and the PML-N formed a short-lived coalition after the last general elections in 2008.
Iqbal is also one of the spokesmen of the PML-N.
Some reports said PML-N leader Ishaq Dar, widely tipped to be the Finance Minister, could be considered for the post of Foreign Minister.
Siddiq-ul-Farooq, another PML-N spokesman, told journalists that Dar, 64, would head the new government’s economic team as Finance Minister.
Dar, a member of the Senate or upper house of parliament, served as Finance Minister in the PPP-led government before the PML-N pulled out of the coalition in 2008.
During his stint as Finance Minister in the last PML-N government, Dar played a key role in tackling economic challenges faced by Pakistan after sanctions were imposed by Western powers following the 1998 nuclear tests.
Dar will have a central role in Sharif’s plans to revitalise Pakistan’s economy, plagued by sluggish growth and one of the lowest tax collection rates in South Asia.
He will have to prepare the new budget by June and also may have to negotiate a fresh bailout with the International Monetary Fund.