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Pakistan Lawmakers Elect Prime Minister


Pakistan's National Assembly has elected Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali as the country's first civilian prime minister since the 1999 military coup.

The 58-year-old Pakistani leader comes from the southwestern province of Balochistan. He won 172 votes out of 328, defeating candidates from an Islamic alliance and the party of exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

The speaker of the Pakistani National Assembly, Amir Hussain, declared the result of the vote. "It has been ascertained that Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali commands the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly," he said.

Mr. Jamali is a member of Pakistan Muslim League (Q) party, which supports the military ruler, President Pervez Musharraf.

A general election on October 10 produced a divided parliament. Mr. Jamali won the support of smaller parties and some defectors from Ms. Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party to secure a thin majority.

In a speech after his election, Mr. Jamali endorsed economic and foreign policies pursued by President Musharraf's military government and said they would be continued.

Opposition members in their speeches criticized Mr. Musharraf for amending the country's constitution and insisted that the changes need parliament's approval. Mr. Jamali assured the lower house that his government will consult the opposition on all major issues.

"Let's not be in a hurry, let's not be impatient and let's not be selfish," he said. "If that be the case, I am afraid, Mr. Speaker, again we will be defaulters [lose civilian rule] and God knows what's going to happen after that. It's a golden chance we have got. It's a right of the people and I think every citizen is looking towards us."

For almost five weeks after the general election, Mr. Jamali's party held several rounds of talks with the alliance of Islamic parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, to form a coalition.

But the negotiations broke down over differences over President Musharraf's constitutional amendments, which allow him to stay in office for five more years. The amendments also give the president power to dismiss the elected government. Prime Minister Jamali's party accepts these changes, saying they are needed to ensure a stable democratic system in Pakistan.

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