Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was administered the oath of office for the record third time, at a glittering ceremony at the Aiwan-e-Sadr by President Asif Ali Zardari. Slogans for democracy rent the air, marking the hand-over of power from one elected government to another, for the first time in Pakistan’s history.
Nawaz Sharif returned to power after a gap of 14 years after he had been ousted in a bloodless coup in October 1999, soon after the short but sharp war over the Kargil heights, by General Pervez Musharraf, who he had handpicked as the Army chief.
Ironically, Sharif took oath at a time when Musharraf is under house arrest in Pakistan and is facing several charges including subverting the Constitution.
But today, democracy was being celebrated with fervour and it escaped no one that Sharif had allowed his predecessor PPP government to complete its five year term, despite sharp differences between him and President Zardari. The PML (N), which was in coalition with the PPP after the 2008 elections had later withdrawn its ministers after differences with Zardari, especially over the reinstatement of the Pakistan chief justice.
Earlier in the day, after being elected to the office of the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif addressed the National Assembly and vowed to fulfill the mandate entrusted upon him by the people saying that now that the people had reposed faith in democracy, there was no room for any misadventures and the sabotaging of the democratic process.
Sharif, who batted for ‘’politics of principles and not of power’’, will have to deliver fast on economic reforms, especially on addressing the energy crisis which looms in the form of an electricity bomb, waiting to explode.
Analysts argue Sharif will not be given the usual 100-day honeymoon period to show results on several pressing issues including load shedding and terrorism.
India is keenly watching Sharif’s ascent to power. While the newly-elected Prime Minister has promised better ties through the granting of the most favoured nation (status) and the reining in of militant groups export terror into India from Pakistani soil, it remains to be seen how soon Sharif will be able to turn his attention to India, given the domestic crisis he will have to devote time to immediately.