Pakistan swears in newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s 19-member Cabinet

In this photo released by the Pakistan's President Office, President Asif Ali Zardari, center left, administers the oath from federal ministers as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, center right, watches during a ceremony at the Presidential Palace, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, March 11, 2024. The 19-member Cabinet of Pakistan's newly-elected Prime Minister Sharif was sworn in Monday during a brief ceremony. (Pakistan's President Office via AP)

In this photo released by the Pakistan’s President Office, President Asif Ali Zardari, center left, administers the oath from federal ministers as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, center right, watches during a ceremony at the Presidential Palace, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, March 11, 2024. The 19-member Cabinet of Pakistan’s newly-elected Prime Minister Sharif was sworn in Monday during a brief ceremony. (Pakistan’s President Office via AP)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The 19-member Cabinet of Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif was sworn into office on Monday and held its first meeting. The prime minister appointed several top government posts and promised to tackle the country’s unrelenting economic crisis.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari administered the oath of office to the ministers at the presidential office in the capital of Islamabad, with Sharif in attendance. Sharif was elected as prime minister by the parliament on Sunday, a month after parliamentary elections and after his Pakistan Muslim League-N party formed a coalition with several allies.

Sharif held the same position from April 2022 to August 2023, when he replaced archrival Imran Khan, a former cricket star turned Islamist politician who was ousted in a no-confidence vote in the National Assembly.

Sharif’s new government faces daunting challenges, including an unprecedented economic crisis, regular power cuts, near-daily militant attacks and a challenging relationship with neighboring Taliban-run Afghanistan.

In televised remarks, Sharif vowed to improve the country’s economy and contain rising inflation and halt price hikes during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Ramadan for most Muslim countries started on Monday.

Sharif appointed lawmaker Ishaq Dar as foreign minister and re-appointed Khawaja Mohammad Asif as defense minister. Mohsin Naqvi, who served as caretaker chief minister in the eastern Punjab province, was appointed interior minister while Attaullah Tarar was named information minister.

The post of finance minister went to Muhammad Aurangzeb. The minister for climate change is yet to be selected from among the remaining ministers.

Zardari was appointed president on Saturday by the newly elected parliament. His office is mostly a ceremonial role and he is Sharif’s main ally. However, no one from his Pakistan People’s Party has been appointed to the Cabinet. Zardari’s son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, was foreign minister during Sharif’s previous stint as premier.

On Sunday, police detained dozens of Khan’s supporters while protesting alleged rigging in last month’s parliamentary elections, which the ousted politician’s party claimed was aimed at blocking it from getting a majority. Election officials have denied the charge.

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