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Sharif Elected Pakistan's Prime Minister


Nawaz Sharif speaks to party members during a function in Lahore in this May 20, 2013 file photo.

Nawaz Sharif speaks to party members during a function in Lahore in this May 20, 2013 file photo.

Nawaz Sharif has been elected Pakistan’s prime minister for an unprecedented third term, nearly 14 years after he was deposed in a military coup. His election to the post on Wednesday by the country's national assembly comes after the veteran politician's Pakistan Muslim League-N won a majority of seats in the May 11 national elections.

Lawmakers on Wednesday cheered Sharif, the first politician to lead the country for a third term. His political victory represents the first time an elected civilian government in Pakistan has peacefully transitioned to another.

In his first public address to the nation as prime minister-elect, Sharif said that past dictatorships had weakened the country, and democracy was Pakistan’s sole way forward. He pledged to end nepotism and resolve the nation’s crippling energy shortages.

Watch related video of reaction, preparations for swearing-in:


Looking forward

Sharif listed a range of issues, including energy shortages, inflation, debt, unemployment, a badly ailing economy, despondency among our youth, extremism and lawlessness, increasing poverty, bleeding public enterprises, rampant corruption and Pakistan’s weak international image. He said we have accepted responsibility to deal with these challenges.

Even though his party enjoys a majority in the parliament, Sharif also reached out to the opposition, vowing to work together with all political parties to steer the country to a better future.

Businessman Hafiz Farooq Ahmed Khan said that Sharif, 63, a former businessman and veteran politician, has the background necessary to lead Pakistan.

"I personally think he will be able to manage the crisis and we will come out from this critical situation," Khan said. "I hope and I pray. We need those leaders who are sincere with the nation and with the country."

Obstacles

The country is suffering from a shortage of foreign reserves, chronic corruption, bloody militant attacks, and weak public institutions.

Retired military general and analyst Talat Masood said Sharif is in a strong political position to push through the necessary tough reforms, but warned that the people of Pakistan will need to see results soon.

"I think he has enough capital because firstly he has a very large majority, he doesn’t have to depend on any other party to stay in power, moreover I think all the other parties also will support him and the people of Pakistan will support him because they realize that the challenges are enormous and if he is moving in the right direction, if there is good governance, if they see any hope, they will back him. But if they realize things are all the same and there is nothing that is changing then obviously he will find there will be a lot of unrest," said Masood.

Sharif’s party, the PML-N, has 176 seats in the 342-member national assembly, the lower house of parliament.

Sharif also called for an end to controversial American drone strikes within Pakistani territory. The United States says the strikes have weakened al-Qaida and Taliban militants networks. But they are are deeply unpopular among Pakistanis who say the strikes have killed civilians.

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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

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