Sharif to take office for third term as Pakistan PM

ISLAMABAD: Nawaz Sharif will take office as prime minister of Pakistan for an unprecedented third term on Wednesday, setting the seal on the country´s first ever democratic transfer of power.

Some 13 years after he was deposed in a coup and sent into exile, the 63-year-old will be formally chosen by a vote in the National Assembly before taking the oath from President Asif Ali Zardari later in the day.

But any joy at the democratic milestone or his own remarkable comeback will be short-lived, as Sharif faces a mountain of challenges, starting with an energy crisis that has hamstrung the country´s economy and made ordinary Pakistanis´ lives a misery.

Sharif is expected to make a short speech to the National Assembly, where his Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) holds the majority of the 342 seats, setting out his view of the problems facing the country.

“He will talk about his priorities and his government´s strategy to deal with the issues of crippled economy, loadshedding (power cuts) and law and order situation,” PML-N spokesman Siddiq-ul-Farooq told AFP.

“He will also take the assembly into confidence on steps that his government will take to uphold rule of law and democracy in the country by promoting politics of accommodation, sobriety, patience and tolerance.”

Sharif is expected to make a longer address to the nation some time after taking the oath of office.

Years of mismanagement, under investment and corruption in the power sector have led to blackouts of up to 20 hours a day in the blistering heat of summer, when temperatures reach up to 50 Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).

Sharif has vowed to build new power plants to tackle the problem, which acts as a huge drag on the economy — shaving up to four percent off GDP, according to the Planning Commission.

PML-N scored a comfortable win in the May 11 general election as Zardari´s Pakistan People´s Party (PPP) were routed, blamed by voters for five years which saw crippling power shortages worsen and militancy continue almost unabated.

But the very fact the PPP completed their five-year term was seen as important in a country that has suffered three coups and been ruled for more than half of its 65-year history by the military.