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Sharif sworn in as Pakistan PM for unprecedented third term

Nearly 14 years after being deposed in a military coup and forced into exile, Nawaz Sharif was on Wednesday sworn in as Pakistan’s Prime Minister for a record third term, as he vowed to revive the country’s ailing economy and called for an end to the controversial US drone strikes.

63-year-old Sharif was sworn in by President Asif Ali Zardari at a function at the presidency this evening after being formally elected as Prime Minister by an overwhelming majority in Pakistan’s 342-member National Assembly.

Sharif is the 27th Prime Minister of Pakistan, which has witnessed three military coups in its 66-year history.He became the first person to serve as Prime Minister for a third term.

Sharif, served as premier during 1990-1993 and 1997-1999 but was ousted from office before he could complete his term once on corruption charges and later because of a military coup led by Pervez Musharraf.

After spending the past five years in the opposition, Sharif led his PML-N party to victory in the May 11 general elections.

‘The economic position is very bad and I will not present a fanciful image of heaven,’ Sharif said while addressing the National Assembly after his formal election as the premier. He pledged that he would not ‘sit easy’ or allow his ‘team to sit easy’.

Foreign policy issues, including relations with India, did not figure in Sharif’s speech though he said that US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt ‘must stop’.

Sharif was formally elected Prime Minister by the National Assembly after bagging 244 votes in the House. Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the candidate of the Pakistan Peoples Party that led the previous government, got 42 votes. Veteran politician Javed Hashmi, the candidate of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party, got 31 votes.

The swearing in ceremony in an ornate hall in the presidency was attended by top leaders of the PML-N, several Pakistan Peoples Party leaders, including former premiers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf, former ministers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and diplomats.

The President warmly shook hands with Sharif, clad in a dark sherwani, at the conclusion of the brief ceremony as the new premier’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, looked on with a smile. Sharif’s wife Kalsoom Nawaz and his daughter Maryam sat in the front row at a short distance from Zardari’s daughter Aseefa Bhutto Zardari. The three service chiefs, including powerful army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee chairman Gen Khalid Wynne too sat in the front row. Members of the interim government led by caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso and Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal also attended the ceremony.

Sharif’s elevation as Prime Minister marks the completion of the first democratic transition of power in Pakistan’s turbulent history. Sharif sought an end to the controversial US drone attacks targeting al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in safe havens in the country’s lawless tribal belts.

‘We respect the sovereignty of others and they should respect our sovereignty and independence. This campaign must come to an end,’ Sharif told MPs.

Sharif called for all parties and stakeholders to be on the same page for tackling the country’s massive political and economic challenges. The country has remained stuck in a cycle of low growth and high inflation, unable to create jobs for the two million people who enter the employment market annually.
‘I will contact all parties and their leaders. Let’s sit together and if you share our vision, we are ready to share your vision. Let us sit and make a common agenda to pull the country out of problems,’ Sharif said.

Pakistan was facing serious problems that cannot be solved by any single political party, Sharif said.
Besides a massive energy crisis that has resulted in power outages of 12 to 20 hours a day across the country and an economic meltdown, the new PML-N government will have to contend with a raging Taliban insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives over the past six years. Sharif said he and his aides had framed a plan of action to cope with Pakistan’s problems and he would soon inform the people about the steps the government intended to take.
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