Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif urges end to US drone strikes

Mr Sharif told MPs that it was necessary to work out a joint strategy to stop drone strikes

Pakistan's new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called for an end to US drone strikes in his first address since being re-elected to the post.

"We respect the sovereignty of others and they should respect our sovereignty and independence. This campaign must come to an end," he told MPs.

Mr Sharif, who was ousted in a 1999 coup, was later in the day sworn in for an unprecedented third term as PM.

He faces numerous challenges, including Taliban attacks and a crippled economy.

In his speech to parliament after 244 MPs approved him in the 342-seat chamber, Mr Sharif also pledged to tackle corruption and reduce unemployment and power cuts.

Analysis

In his maiden speech to parliament, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chose his words and subjects carefully.

He did restate his election promise to stop US drone strikes in Pakistan, but made it clear that Pakistan needed to address the concerns that led to them.

Mr Sharif skipped any mention of his oft-repeated plan to hold talks with Taliban militants, or the normalisation of relations with India.

The prime minister is treading a fine line. The army has been shaping policies about militancy and India, and Mr Sharif feels he will need wider support across the political spectrum to handle these problems.

He must also deal with severe electricity shortages, a sinking economy and rampant corruption.

Such major challenges prompted Mr Sharif to make a strong appeal to all political groups and "other stake-holders" - which many assume means the military - to sit together and hammer out a joint strategy to resolve them.

He told MPs that it was necessary to work out a joint strategy to stop drone strikes.

"We must learn others' [American] concerns about us, and express our concerns about them, and find a way to resolve this issue," he said.

"These drone strikes that rain in every day have to stop."

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan - who was in parliament to hear Mr Sharif speak - says that the underlying message was that US concerns about militancy need to be addressed.

But the prime minister gave few details on how he might bring about an end to drone strikes, which many in Pakistan see an affront to Pakistani sovereignty. Washington regards the drone attacks as a vital weapon against militants fighting US-led forces in Afghanistan.

Mr Sharif also appealed for unity, while stressing that improving the economy will be his top priority.

But to do that he may need a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

Our correspondent says Mr Sharif's desire to rejuvenate the economy and improve security are both areas that require some speedy but difficult decision-making in a geo-strategic environment which is shaped and controlled by the military.

Important priority

While the new prime minister favours talks with the Pakistani Taliban, many expect that now he is in power he will accept the army's view that all past negotiations have failed and the only option is to fight the jihadis who attack domestic targets.

Nawaz Sharif

Former Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif celebrates in Lahore. 11 May 2013
  • Born in 1949 to family of a prominent Lahore industrialist
  • Served as Punjab's chief minister from 1985 to 1990 under military dictator Zia ul-Haq
  • Previous terms as prime minister 1990-1993 and 1997-1999
  • Deposed by Gen Musharraf and given a jail term
  • Went into exile in Saudi Arabia before returning in 2007
  • Seen as conservative and pro-business

He becomes prime minister at a critical time in the battle against the Taliban - as Nato forces begin the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Infrastructure projects are another important priority for the new leader - he wants to stop power cuts and construct a bullet train between Karachi and Peshawar.

The swearing-in ceremony was attended by members of parliament, foreign diplomats and dignitaries, senior members of the judiciary and chiefs of the armed forces at the presidential palace.

Although other candidates from the Pakistan People's Party and from Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party stood against him, Mr Sharif's nomination was a formality because of his party's commanding position in parliament.

With the support of some independent MPs, the PML-N has an outright majority and has not needed to form a coalition.

President Asif Ali Zardari - his old political rival - administered the oath to him.

PML-N sources are reported in the Pakistan media as saying that the new prime minister wants to compose a cabinet of fewer than 24 ministers but at the same time is under pressure to have representatives from all the country's provinces within it.

Correspondents say that Mr Sharif's task is all the more complicated because most PML-N members come from Punjab, the country's most populous province.

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