June 1, 2013 - 16:40 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Newly elected members of Pakistan's National Assembly have been sworn in, officially marking the first transition of power between democratically elected civilian governments in the 66-year history of the coup-prone country, Belfast Telegraph said.
Among the steep challenges the legislators will face: massive energy shortages that leave some Pakistanis without power for up to 20 hours a day; a badly ailing economy that might force the Muslim-majority nation to seek an international bailout; and ongoing militant activity by Taliban and other extremists whose violence has killed thousands in the past decade and badly strained Pakistan's alliance with the United States.
Arriving at the Parliament building in Islamabad under tight security, the lawmakers were immediately mobbed by reporters. Among those arriving was the incoming prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, whose Pakistan Muslim League-N handily won the May 11 elections. Outgoing Speaker of Parliament Fehmida Mirza solemnly administered the oath to incoming legislators at noon. Afterwards, lawmakers were called up to the front of the hall one by one to sign documents formalising their membership.
The PML-N won 176 seats in the 342-member lower house of Parliament and is expected to rule in an alliance with some independent legislators. The previous ruling Pakistan People's Party was crushed, earning just 39 seats.
Former cricket star Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf won 35 seats, and has pledged to act as a strong opposition. Khan, who is still recovering after fracturing three vertebrae and a rib when he fell off a forklift in the last few days of the campaign, did not attend Saturday's session.
Khan and Sharif have both condemned the US use of drone strikes in Pakistani territory. Such strikes typically target al Qaida-linked militants or Taliban extremists that the US deems a threat, but Pakistanis view the strikes as a violation of sovereignty and believe they also kill many innocent civilians.