Sharif starts consultations to form Pakistan government

Sharif starts consultations to form Pakistan government

LAHORE - Agence France-Presse
Sharif starts consultations to form Pakistan government

A worker removes posters from lamp posts a day after landmark elections. AFP photo

Pakistan’s incoming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has stepped up consultations on forming a government that will have to repair the economy and counter Islamist militancy, as Washington says it is ready to work with Islamabad.

Obama welcomed the “historic, peaceful and transparent transfer of civilian power” in Pakistan. “My administration looks forward to continuing our cooperation with the Pakistani government that emerges from this election as equal partners in supporting a more stable, secure, and prosperous future for the people of Pakistan,” Obama said in a statement.

Partial, unofficial results from May 11’s election represented a stunning comeback for the wealthy 63-year-old tycoon.

Sharif’s centre-right Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) spokesman Siddiqul Farooq said the party had secured a “comfortable majority” at the national level and a “two-thirds majority” in Punjab province.

Meanwhile, Sharif has picked a veteran finance minister to serve in his cabinet as Karachi stocks hit an all-time high yesterday over hopes his pro-business agenda can revive the economy. Ishaq Dar, who served as finance minister in Sharif’s second administration and again briefly in 2008, would return to the job. Dar had “all the facts and figures at his fingertips” to present the budget for the next financial year, Farooq said.

Cricket star Imran Khan appeared to have slipped into third place with 29 seats – an astonishing achievement for a party which previously won only one seat in 2002. Supporters of Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf also won two seats in the northwestern district of Chitral after flouting a party boycott of landmark elections. The Pakistan election commission announced on its website that Iftikhar Uddin won Chitral’s only seat in the national assembly and Haji Ghulam Muhammad gained its sole seat in the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Taliban violence marred the election campaign with attacks killing more than 150 people, including 24 on polling day. While Sharif has voiced support for peace talks with the Taliban, he has been less vocal against U.S. drone strikes than Khan, and is considered a pragmatist with whom Washington can work.