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Pakistani Parliament Elects New Prime Minister - 2004-06-29

Pakistan's parliament has elected ruling party candidate Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain as the country's new prime minister. He replaces Zafarullah Khan Jamali, who resigned last week, apparently because President Pervez Musharraf considered him ineffective.

The new Pakistani prime minister, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, won 190 votes, enough for a majority in the 342-seat National Assembly.

His only rival, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, won 76 votes. Mr. Fahim is a senior member of exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's political party, Pakistan Peoples Party, and heads an opposition alliance of liberal political parties in the parliament.

The National Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain announced the results.

"Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has obtained 190 votes," he said. "Consequently I declare Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain as the member who commands the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly."

Mr. Hussain is known as a loyal ally of President Musharraf, who is also the army chief. In a speech to the parliament after his election, Mr. Hussain demonstrated this loyalty.

Mr. Hussain said the policies of President Musharraf brought economic stability, political security and enlightened moderation to Pakistan and have laid the foundation for the country to prosper and be strong. He said these polices will be implemented with complete resolve.

Mr. Hussain is expected to stay in office for less than two months, when he will likely be replaced by Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, who is considered President Musharraf's first choice for prime minister. But Mr. Aziz ineligible for the office because he is not a member of the National Assembly. However, in the weeks to come, the ruling party is expected to arrange an election that will bring Mr. Aziz into the National Assembly, clearing the way for his selection as prime minister.

Mr. Aziz is credited with reviving Pakistan's troubled economy.

Former Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali tendered his resignation on Saturday after staying in office for 19 months. He gave no reason for taking the decision but media reports suggest Mr. Jamali developed differences with President Musharraf, who was reportedly unhappy with Mr. Jamali's inability to deal effectively with an aggressive opposition in the parliament and implement his political and economic reforms.

Opposition parties have been strongly criticizing the change of prime minister. The say it underlines the lack of real democracy in Pakistan. Critics of President Musharraf, who took power in a military coup in 1999, say the political change is another slap in the face of democracy by the powerful military of Pakistan that prefers to run the country on its own.