Pakistani parliament to elect Nawaz Sharif as PM

Associated Press
In this photo released by the Pakistan Muslim League-N party, incoming Prime Minister and Head of Pakistan Muslim League-N party Nawaz Sharif, left, takes the oath of office with other newly elected parliamentarians during the first session of the National Assembly in Islamabad, Pakistan, Saturday, June 1, 2013. Newly elected members of Pakistan's National Assembly were sworn in Saturday, officially marking the first transition of power between democratically elected civilian governments in the nearly 66-year history of this coup-prone country. (AP Photo/Pakistan Muslim League-N party)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan's parliament is set to elect Nawaz Sharif as prime minister on Wednesday, completing a historic transition of power in the country's coup-riddled history.

As the new premier, Sharif will face a mountain of problems, including militant attacks and an unprecedented power crisis.

The vote in the National Assembly is something of a formality as Sharif is expected to win handily after his party's victory in the May 11 polls. After the vote, he is to be sworn in during a ceremony with the president, making him the country's first prime minister to serve for a third time.

Wednesday's vote marks a turnaround for the 63-year-old Sharif, who was ousted from office in 1999 in a military coup. He spent nearly eight years in exile, mostly in Saudi Arabia, and five years in the opposition before regaining the prime minister's office.

Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party won the May 11 parliamentary elections, securing 176 seats in the 342-member law-making lower house.

The former ruling Pakistan People's Party and the party of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan have also fielded candidates against Sharif for the vote in parliament. Several small parties announced Wednesday that they would support Sharif, who served twice as prime minister in the 1990s.

"We will have no problem in getting Nawaz Sharif elected as the prime minister," said Ahsan Iqbal, a senior lawmaker from Sharif's party.

But if the vote will be easy, solving the problems that Pakistan faces will not be.

Over the last five years of the previous administration, power outages — some as long as 20 hours — have plagued the country. People suffer through sweltering summers, and in recent years gas shortages in the winter have left people unable to heat their houses.

Companies struggle to find a way to run businesses without a reliable source of electricity.

Sharif and his team of advisors, well aware that they were elected on the expectation that they'd solve this issue, have been meeting continuously with officials from the country's power-related industries and interim government officials from affected ministries.

"We will do whatever is possible to overcome the energy crisis," said Sharif's brother, Shehbaz Sharif, while speaking to reporters in the capital of Islamabad. Sharif's brother is expected to be elected Thursday as chief minister of Punjab province, the PML-N's stronghold.

When it comes to ties with the U.S., Sharif has sent mixed messages about what type of relationship he'll pursue.

The U.S. and Pakistan have differed in the past over how to best pursue peace in Afghanistan and how to deal with militants in Pakistan's tribal areas.

During an interview with reporters shortly after his election, Sharif said he wants good relations with the United States but criticized American drone strikes on militants as a violation of the country's sovereignty.

After an American drone strike killed the deputy commander of the Pakistani Taliban, Waliur Rehman, last Wednesday, Sharif expressed "deep disappointment" in the strike. The statement called the strike a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and international law.