| Jamali (AFP)
Nov. 21: Mir Zafarullah Jamali, a pro-military politician backed by US ambassador Nancy Powell, has been elected Pakistan’s first civilian Prime Minister since the 1999 coup.
Powell, who has known Jamali for two decades, had lobbied hard for the candidature of the Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam) nominee. The League is regarded as the “king’s party” because of its proximity with President Pervez Musharraf.
Analysts and diplomats say Jamali has been chosen for the job precisely because he is an establishment figure who is expected to cooperate with the military.
Musharraf has promised to hand over the running of the country to the Prime Minister, but he will remain President for a further five years with considerable influence and the power to dismiss parliament. Jamali will be sworn in on Saturday.
Accepting the vote, Jamali endorsed Musharraf’s legacy in the three years since the coup, stressing the general’s achievements in foreign and economic policy and implicitly promising more of the same.
“On the external front, because of the policy of the last three years, Pakistan has become a frontline state, Pakistan has respect and dignity,” Jamali said. “Thanks to Musharraf who gave a road map and fulfilled his promise... the transfer of power is going on,” Jamali said in his acceptance speech.
Jamali won a narrow majority in the ballot with 172 of the 328 votes cast, relying on the help of smaller parties and some defectors from his larger rivals. Diplomats are already wondering how long his government will last.
The soft-spoken Jamali is an experienced but staid politician from Baluchistan. Jamali is a moderate Muslim who also served as a minister under Zia-ul Haq. Married, with four sons and a daughter, Jamali speaks English well and is also fluent in the main local languages, including Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtu and Baluchi.
To the likely relief of investors, an alliance of hardline Islamist groups, which rode a wave of anti-American sentiment in October’s general election, was set for a spell in the opposition after declining to join the Muslim League in a coalition. Its candidate Fazul-ur Rehman won 86 votes today.
Nevertheless the Islamists, who want US forces out of Pakistan, control two provincial assemblies, and are likely to be a powerful force in the Senate or upper house of parliament.