Published: Sunday, June 2, 2013

Remarkable day in Pakistan

New parliament members sworn in; Sharif to take oath as PM on Wednesday

Pakistan’s new parliament was sworn-in yesterday, completing the country’s first-ever democratic transition of power in a country ruled for half its history by the military.
Newly-elected lawmakers came to the parliament building for the oath-taking ceremony amid tight security around the “Red Zone” of the capital Islamabad where key government buildings are located, an AFP photographer said.
Speaker of the national assembly Fehmida Mirza administered the oath to lawmakers, with the ceremony broadcast live on television. The session began with the playing of national anthem and the traditional recitation from the Quran.
The national assembly secretariat said in a statement that a new speaker and deputy speaker will be elected through secret ballot on Monday, while the new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, will be formally elected by the lower house and sworn in on Wednesday.
Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) romped to victory in the elections and will command 177 of the 342 seats in the new assembly, giving it significant leverage to oust President Asif Ali Zardari when his term expires in September.
The former prime minister, 63, will take up the reins of power for an unprecedented third term when he is sworn in. During his two previous administrations he earned a reputation for hotheadedness and pugnacity.
“I thank Allah who gave our nation an opportunity to bring a new government through elections,” Sharif told reporters at Islamabad airport where he arrived from his home town Lahore.
“It is a good development that a peaceful democratic transition is taking place today. There could not be a better way to change a government through ballot. I congratulate the nation over it.”
Analysts believe Sharif will face a tough time as he struggles with the country’s failing economy, endless power cuts and rampant Islamist militancy.
“The sluggish economy, power crisis and terrorism are the three major problems that will require the immediate attention of the new parliament and the government,” political analyst Hasan Askari told AFP.
Pakistan’s 65-year history has been punctuated by three periods of military rule.
The country achieved its democratic milestone by completing its full five-year term under a coalition government led by the Pakistan People’s Party.
But the PPP was routed at the polls, blamed by voters for five years of apathy and drift which saw crippling power shortages worsen and militancy continue almost unabated.
PML-N leaders said they will work with the opposition to take on Pakistan’s various problems.