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Jamali, Cabinet sworn in

Islamabad, Nov. 23: Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister was sworn in today, formally returning the country to civilian rule after three years of military dictatorship.

At the swearing in ceremony, attended by religious and political leaders, diplomats and top military officers, 14 Cabinet ministers also took the oath, including three “dissident” PPP members who backed Jamali’s candidacy.

Jamali has vowed to continue Musharraf’s key policies, including supporting the US in its hunt for al Qaida and Taliban operatives in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But he could have a rough ride in parliament, with the PML short of a majority and two formidable forces in opposition — the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) led by exiled ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the fiercely anti-US religious Right.

“Pakistan comes first,” the 58-year-old Jamali said, after a formal ceremony at the presidential palace in Islamabad.

Musharraf immediately called for continuity of his policies, which have won him powerful friends in Washington and among investors impressed with economic reforms.

“Whatever projects have been started should be seen through to their logical ends in these next five years so that Pakistan can progress and prosper,” the President said.

In an early sign of continuity, Shaukat Aziz, the respected outgoing finance minister, was named economic adviser to Jamali. Musharraf has been criticised for rigging the October 10 election by banning key opponents and formalising the military’s role in government through the National Security Council.

Jamali, described by friends as a moderate Muslim, won 172 votes of 328 cast in Thursday’s prime ministerial ballot with the help of smaller parties and defections from his larger rivals.

“I think this team is pretty good, very competent. I have no doubts about how they will perform so I think they will live up to expectations,” Musharraf said of the new government.

The PPPP defectors were all awarded with key ministries in the new Cabinet. A statement said Rao Sikandar Iqbal was the new defence minister, Faisal Saleh Hayat the new interior minister and Nauroz Shakoor petroleum and natural resources minister.

No finance minister was named, raising expectations that Aziz would keep his portfolio if he ran in the upcoming election to the Senate upper parliamentary chamber.

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