Sharif to be sworn in as Pak premier today

Islamabad- Nawaz Sharif will be sworn in for a record third term as Pakistan's Prime Minister tomorrow after he is formally elected to the post and a very small cabinet comprising close aides is expected to take oath along with him.

Sharif's election in the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament is a foregone conclusion as his PML-N party has over 180 members in the 342-member strong House. The election of the Prime Minister will be done by a division of the House. 63-year-old Sharif's nomination papers for the election to the post were submitted by PML-N leaders Ishaq Dar, Khwaja Asif and Abdul Qadir Baloch this afternoon. Contesting the election against Sharif are Javed Hashmi of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and the Makhdoom Amin Fahim of the Pakistan Peoples Party, which led the previous government. Their nomination papers were also filed today. Sharif is expected to retain the crucial foreign affairs and defence portfolios with himself for his third stint as premier. Though reports have suggested that less than 20 ministers will be sworn in along with Sharif on June 5, PML-N insiders told PTI that the cabinet could be limited to only 8 to 10 members and would comprise only close aides holding key portfolios. "At a later stage, the Prime Minister could expand the cabinet after the (Islamic month) of Ramzan. In the initial phase, only top PML-N leaders and close aides of Mr Sharif will be accommodated in the cabinet," said a PML-N leader who did not want to be named. Sources said Sharif is expected to keep his cabinet small for various reasons, including the new government's desire to cut spending and lobbying within the party for key portfolios. "All groups within the party and influential leaders will have to be accommodated. Then there are leaders from Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces, where the PML-N is not in power, and they will also have to be taken care of," a source said. Sharif, served as premier during 1990-1993 and 1997-1999 but was ousted from office before he could complete his term – once on corruption charges and later because of a military coup led by Pervez Musharraf. After being deposed in 1999, he was jailed and sent into exile to Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal will tomorrow attend the swearing-in ceremony of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif as the new Prime Minister of that country. Terming the swearing-in ceremony as a "local event", External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid today maintained that there was no invitation from Pakistan. "As I understand, I think, it is a local event. Missions will all be represented. I am not sure if there are any invites for anybody to be coming. Certainly not to our knowledge and therefore there wasn't any need to take decision on this," Khurshid said when asked whether a decision has been taken on who will represent India at the ceremony tomorrow. "Our High Commissioner was here. We talked this morning and he is going back to attend the swearing-in as other High Commissioners would," Khurshid told reporters here.

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