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Pakistan Gets a Prime Minister

Thursday, 21 November 2002 12:00 AM

The new prime minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, belongs to a pro-military faction of the Pakistan Muslim League party.

After his election Jamali told the parliament he will run the government with consultation, taking along all political groups.

"We have learnt lessons from the past and it is need of the hour to work together for the promotion of democracy and well being of the people," said the new prime minister in his maiden speech. "Pakistan comes first and all other things come afterwards. Pakistan has no enmity with any country but if an evil eye is cast on Pakistan, the nation will face it united," he added.

He said the economic and foreign policies of the military government were very successful and that the new government would continue them.

So far only one elected government has completed its full five-year tenure in Pakistan. All others were sent home by the generals who have ruled the country for more than half of its 56 years of independence.

Despite the change, military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf remains as president for the next five years with the power to sack the elected government and dissolve parliament.

Jamali received 172 votes out of 331 cast in the 342-seat chamber. His rival candidate of the six-party religious alliance, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, got 89 votes, and another opposition candidate, Shah Mahmood Qureshi of the Pakistan People's Party garnered 70 votes.

Jamali's victory is seen in Pakistan as a major successive for Musharraf who faces an increasingly hostile opposition in the new parliament.

The anti-American and pro-Taliban religious alliance -- Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal -- opposes Musharraf for joining the U.S.-led war against the Taliban and al Qaida fighters while PPP wants him to restore full democracy and return the army to the barracks.

Musharraf had toppled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in October 1999 on charges of corruption and inefficiency. The coup also caused a split in Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League party with a major faction supporting the army. A smaller faction is still loyal to Sharif.

As required by a Supreme Court decision, Musharraf held general elections on Oct. 10 but delayed transfer power to the civilians because the elections produced a hung parliament where no single party has a majority.

The threat of a religious takeover, posed by the unexpectedly strong success of the MMA in the general elections, further delayed the process.

After almost five weeks of haggling and backdoor maneuvering, the pro-Musharraf faction of the Pakistan Muslim League captured the seats of the speaker and the deputy speaker on Tuesday by winning 167 votes.

The party further strengthened its position by capturing the prime ministerial slot on Thursday, albeit amid charges of serious rigging and malpractices by the opposition.

"The (military) government used all fair and unfair means to ensure the success of the King's party (PML)," said MMA lawmaker Liaquat Baloch.

He was supported by the PPP and pro-Sharif faction of the PML. "This is not democracy. The general is still running the show," said Javed Hashmi, a pro-Sharif legislator.

But Musharraf has rejected such charges as baseless and urged political parties to focus their attention on strengthening democracy instead.

"We have put them in the right direction. Now it is up to the politicians to continue this journey," said Musharraf while addressing the nation on the national television Wednesday evening.

"We have fulfilled our pledge to restore democracy. We have raised Pakistan's image in the international community and given stability to the economy," he added.

He urged the new government to continue his policies, particularly that of supporting the U.S.-led war against terrorism.

Earlier Thursday when the parliament began its proceedings to elect the new prime minister, Speaker Chaudhry Amir Hussain caused uproar when he declared that all the amendments made by Musharraf were now part of the Constitution.

The opposition has already rejected these amendments, made through presidential decrees, and urged Musharraf to put them before the parliament for a debate. It was through these amendments that Musharraf assumed discretion powers, including the power to dismiss an elected government and dissolve parliament.

"The speaker's ruling has no legal ground. The amendments can not be legalized without a parliamentary debate and a vote," said a PPP leader, Amin Fahim.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The new prime minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, belongs to a pro-military faction of the Pakistan Muslim League party. After his election Jamali told the parliament he will run the government with consultation, taking along all political groups. "We have learnt...
Thursday, 21 November 2002 12:00 AM
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