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Pakistan's new gov't faces challenges ahead
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Newly-elected Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani on Tuesday was sworn in by President Pervez Musharraf at the presidential house here in Islamabad, a sign that the new government is taking shape.

When celebrating their victories, the new rulers will have to tackle problems faced by the country.

Pakistan emerged as one of the fastest growing economies in the world during the period when the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) was in power. However, signs of economic development slowing down appeared due to uncertainties accompanying a series of political events in the latest few months.

A recent report by the National Bank of Pakistan shows that the budget deficit is worsening and growth rate of investment in manufacturing is making a downturn in the first season of the current fiscal year. After the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on December 27 last year, some investors from the US and UK fled Pakistan with tens of millions of US dollars worth of investment. Hence the new government will have to restore the confidence of investors.

Inflation and price hikes have been levying much pressure on people's life. In their election campaigns, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) blamed the former ruling party for bringing out these problems and pledged to adopt economic policies which would benefit the poor. Their tactics worked and won the support of many grassroot people.

It is the PPP-dominated new government's top priority to materialize its promise by containing the inflation, bringing down prices, creating new job opportunities and bettering people's life in a short time.

The ruling coalition is to be composed of several parties among which PPP and PML-N are the largest and have different agendas. It is challenging for the new government to keep the coalition partners united in future.

The coalition partners turned out to be cooperative on the nominations of top slots of the government and National Assembly (NA), ushering a good start for their further cooperation in future. The PML-N made some compromises by leaving the offices of Prime Minister, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of NA to PPP. However, analysts pointed out that the two parties, which used to be arch-rivals in the past, will have to bargain on the allotment of portfolios such as interior, finance, defense and foreign ministers. Pakistan's political scenario will be characterized by the cooperation as well as leverage among the ruling coalition parties.

Observers believe that a single party would not be able to shoulder the great responsibility of running a whole country. Besides, both the PPP and the PML-N consider the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League as their rival party, which will bring PPP and PML-N closer. Categorically speaking, the differences between the PPP and PML-N are not sharp enough to damage their willingness for cooperation.

Pakistan witnessed more than 50 suicide attacks in 2007. Many blamed the attacks, most of them targeting security forces, on the country's policy of joining war on terror led by the US Although PPP and PML-N said they would continue fighting terrorism, they would, different from the former ruling party, do it on their own. They mentioned that talks would be held with the militants in tribal areas.

The White House spokeswoman Dana Perino Monday said that the US and Pakistan had lots of different areas including counter terrorism where the two countries could cooperate. "We've had good relations with them over the past; we hope that that continues," she said.

(Xinhua News Agency March 26, 2008)

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