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Pakistan's Premier Sworn In

November 24, 2002|From Associated Press

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A backer of President Pervez Musharraf was sworn in Saturday as head of a new civilian government that is seen as sympathetic to the president's support for the U.S.-declared war on terrorism.

Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali's key role in the government is expected to ease concerns in the West about the rise of Pakistan's ultraconservative religious parties, who came in a surprising third in Oct. 10 elections and have called for greater distance from the United States. They had pushed to become part of a coalition government but will sit in opposition.

Jamali's team will be the first elected civilian government to oversee the day-to-day running of the country since Musharraf took control in a 1999 coup. The 21-member Cabinet and a small group of special advisors were also sworn in Saturday.

Musharraf will remain president for the next five years and has pushed through a series of constitutional decrees giving himself the power to dissolve parliament and sack the prime minister if he sees fit.

Jamali, from a breakaway faction of the Pakistan Muslim League party, has promised to continue the military ruler's policies, especially his strong support of U.S. efforts to hunt down Al Qaeda members and remnants of the Taliban.

His greatest challenge will be satisfying the demands of Pakistan's extremely powerful pro-U.S. military while appeasing the resurgent religious parties and their supporters in the street, where many are angry at their government's support for the United States.

"The opposition will not allow him to blindly follow and continue Musharraf's policies," said Malik Miraj Khalid, a former caretaker prime minister and senior political commentator. Khalid said the opposition, especially the religious parties, would be a formidable foe.

"Jamali will have to satisfy a majority of the parliament to remain in power," Khalid said, adding that it will not be easy. "By becoming prime minister, he has selected a crown of thorns for himself."

Jamali's first test will come within two months. Under Pakistani law, he must win a vote of confidence in the National Assembly within 60 days.

Shaukat Aziz, the much-respected finance minister under Musharraf, was sworn in as a special advisor to Jamali, an indication that economic policy will be unchanged. Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, the new foreign minister, is a liberal with a long history of close ties to the United States.

Faisal Saleh Hayyat, a dissident leader of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party, was named interior minister as a reward for breaking ranks with Bhutto's party and voting for Jamali over the party's own prime ministerial candidate. Several other ministers were drawn from the ranks of Pakistan People's Party deserters.

"The team is good," Musharraf said of the new Cabinet.

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