Pakistan swears in 25-member Cabinet

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s new prime minister unveiled a 25-member Cabinet on Friday, a group that many here hope will waste no time in tackling major economic, energy and security challenges facing the country.

Key posts were handed out to longtime aides of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, some of whom held Cabinet positions in previous governments. But the key positions of foreign minister and defense minister were left unfilled. Pakistani media have reported that Sharif will keep those portfolios himself with aid from advisers.

One prominent figure sworn in Friday is Ishaq Dar, a former finance minister who was once again allotted the same position. Pakistan’s economy is in dire straits, and Dar and others are expected to try to do what they can to improve it instead of being forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund for a bailout.

Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who served as the opposition leader when Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N was most recently out of power, was named interior minister. That post is critical in terms of internal security in this nation of 180 million, which continues to be scarred by attacks launched by Taliban and other militants.

Longtime Sharif aide Khawaja Asif was put in charge of the water and power ministry. Sharif has promised to fix Pakistan’s power crisis, which has left parts of the country without electricity for up to 20 hours a day, and Asif’s ministry is expected to play a major role in the search for solutions.

Tariq Fatemi, a former ambassador to the United States, was named special assistant to the prime minister on foreign affairs, while Sartaj Aziz, a former foreign minister, was named national security and foreign affairs adviser to Sharif.

The Cabinet includes two women: Anusha Rehman, who was named junior minister for information technology and communication; and Saira Afzal Tarar, named junior minister for national health services regulation and coordination.

Sharif, who served as prime minister of Pakistan twice in the 1990s, is back in power after his party swept elections last month, soundly defeating the former ruling Pakistan People’s Party.

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