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Profile: New Pakistani Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali - 2002-11-22


Pakistan has a new prime minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, who is seen by some as a pro-military politician unlikely to challenge the military ruler, President Pervez Musharraf.

Mr. Jamali is the first politician from Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan Province to become prime minister. Fifty-eight-years-old, stout and bearded, he comes from a deeply religious family, but he himself is known as a moderate Muslim.

He is fluent in several local languages (Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi,Seraike and Balochi), and also speaks English well. He studied at some of the country's most prestigious institutions, including Lawrence College in Murree and the Government College in Lahore, and he received a master's degree in history from Punjab University.

Mr. Jamali is an experienced politician and a member of the pro-military Pakistan Muslim League party.

His political career began in 1977, when he was elected to the Balochistan assembly and was appointed a minister in the provincial government. He served three times, although briefly, as chief minister of Balochistan.

Pakistan's last military dictator, General Zia ul-Haq, appointed Mr. Jamali a federal minister after taking power in a coup in 1977. Politicians close to Mr. Jamali say his party chose him for the prime minister's job now because of his experience, and his ability to get along with a powerful president, but his opponents have expressed their doubts.

The opponents are critical of Mr. Jamali's close association with the past military government, and say he will only serve to protect the interests of the military this time around. They predict he will not stand up to the current military ruler, Pesident Pervez Musharraf.

President Musharraf has restored democratic institutions in Pakistan, by allowing the National Assembly elections to take place, three years after he seized power in a coup. But he has also amended the country's constitution to institutionalize the military's role in politics, and empowered himself to dismiss the elected government.

Opposition parties reject these amendments, but Mr. Jamali and his party maintain the constitutional changes will ensure a stable democratic system in Pakistan.

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