Lion of Punjab back as PM for 3rd term
Cautions against expectations of any quick fixes or promises that are unrealistic In his speech to Parliament on Wednesday after 244 MPs approved...
Cautions against expectations of any quick fixes or promises that are unrealistic In his speech to Parliament on Wednesday after 244 MPs approved him in the 342-seat chamber, Nawaz Sharif pledged to tackle corruption and reduce unemployment and power cuts. He faces numerous challenges, including Taliban attacks and a crippled economy. Islamabad (PTI): 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. Earlier in the day after his election, he called on all parties and stakeholders to be on the same page for tackling the country's massive political and economic challenges. Pakist"nts position; and burgeoning unemployment, industrial unrest. The PML-N's plan for a "Roshan Pakistan" will include steps to boost economic and trade activities to help the country stand on its own feet and measures to create new infrastructure and investment opportunities. Thorny Taliban Besides, 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. The new premier, however, did not outline how his government intends to deal with the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and other militant groups. In the past few weeks, Sharif has called for peace talks with the militants. The Taliban withdrew their offer of talks after its deputy chief Waliur Rehman was killed in a recent US drone strike. Drone strikes must stop 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". "We will not tolerate any form of corruption and there will be strong accountability," he said. Mending ties with neighbours Pakistan would address the concerns of other countries but they too should respect Pakistan's sovereignty and concerns, he said. "His ability to deliver on critical issues which are relevant for India is not totally under his control at this point of time," says an analyst, a retired naval officer who is now a security analyst. Many believe that a lot will depend on Mr Sharif's relationship and control over the military. Will Saudi bail him out? He needs to shore up inflows of foreign money. Most economists feel the incoming government will have no choice but to go back to the IMF. How will he handle military? Sharif's relations with the military will also be tested when it comes to promoting trade and investment with India, another option which economic experts believe can rejuvenate Pakistan's economy in the short term. India has long been viewed by the military as the enemy with which it fought three regular wars, one covert war in Kargil, and a 15-year proxy guerrilla war in Kashmir. But many feel that may no longer be the case. "I believe the military's thinking on India has changed," says Lt Gen Talat Masood, now retired and working as a security analyst. "They know that their main bone of contention with India - the dispute over Kashmir - is not likely to be resolved any time soon. Therefore, a continued stand-off with India only hurts us economically and also leads to a loss of our leverage with both India and the West." Western powers, especially the United States which provides the bulk of international assistance to Pakistan, have been keen to see a normalisation of relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. But if Pakistan continues to be seen to be supporting insurgents in Afghanistan, India will still feel threatened and keep pushing for action against elements involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. A concession to the Indians on this score may not go down well with the military and its surrogate groups, analysts believe.