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Sharif elected as Pakistan's PM

Pakistan's parliament has elected Nawaz Sharif as prime minister, marking a historic transfer of power in a country that has undergone three military coups.

Mr Sharif received 244 votes in the 342-seat parliament, returning him to the prime minister's office for an unprecedented third time. The vote was widely expected after his Pakistan Muslim League-N won May 11 elections.

Mr Sharif, who was deposed in a military coup in 1999, will be sworn in later by president Asif Ali Zardari. The new premier will face a mountain of challenges during his five-year term, including rolling electricity blackouts and militant attacks.

Mr Sharif started his term by calling for an end to American drone strikes in tribal areas. The call came in his first speech in parliament, minutes after lawmakers elected him the country's premier.

"This daily routine of drone attacks, this chapter shall now be closed," Mr Sharif said, to widespread applause in the parliament hall. He added: "We do respect others' sovereignty. It is mandatory on others that they respect our sovereignty."

But he gave little detail on how he might bring about an end to the strikes, which many in Pakistan have called an affront to the country's sovereignty. The US considers the strikes vital to battling militants such as al Qaida, who use the tribal areas of Pakistan as a safe haven.

During the speech to lawmakers, Mr Sharif emphasised that fixing the country's economy - specifically power blackouts, unemployment and corruption - was his top priority. "I will do my best to change the fate of the people and Pakistan," he said.

Over the last five years, power outages - some as long as 20 hours - have plagued the country.

Mr Sharif and his team of advisers, well aware that they have been elected on the expectation that they would solve this issue, have been meeting continuously with officials from the country's power-related industries and interim government officials from affected ministries.

"We will do whatever is possible to overcome the energy crisis," said Sharif's brother, Shehbaz Sharif, speaking to reporters in the capital Islamabad. He is expected to be elected as chief minister of Punjab province, the PML-N's stronghold.


From Belfast Telegraph