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Jun 22, 2012 at 11:51pm IST

Pakistan: Raja Parvez Ashraf sworn in as new PM

Islamabad: Raja Parvez Ashraf, a stalwart of the ruling PPP, on Friday became Pakistan's new Prime Minister as the country struggled to come out of its latest political crisis.

Ashraf was administered the oath of office by President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday night, hours after he was elected as the new Prime Minister by the National Assembly.

A new federal Cabinet was also sworn in at the Presidency, where 27 federal ministers and 11 ministers of state took oath.

Pakistan: Raja Parvez Ashraf sworn in as new PM

Addressing the National Assembly, Ashraf promised to keep the bettering of ties with India as one of his priorities.

The 61-year-old loyalist of the Bhutto family was pitchforked into the hot seat after the original choice Makhdoom Shahabuddin faced an arrest warrant on Thursday. But the new leader himself is dogged by corruption charges relating to his tenure as Power Minister.

The 342-member National Assembly chose Ashraf as the country's 25th Prime Minister with 211 votes, against opposition PML-N nominee Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan Abbasi who got 89 votes.

Addressing the National Assembly following his election, Ashraf promised to keep the bettering of ties with India as one of his foreign policy priorities.

He said Pakistan will work to strengthen the dialogue process that is already underway to resolve problems like the Kashmir issue.

Several members of Gilani's Cabinet were re-inducted as ministers, including Hina Rabbani Khar, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Naveed Qamar, Khursheed Shah, Farooq Sattar and Makhdoom Shahabuddin, who was the ruling Pakistan People's Party's original candidate for the post of premier.

Shahabuddin had to bow out of the race on Thursday after a special court issued an arrest warrant for him in connection with alleged irregularities in the import of a controlled drug during his tenure as Health Minister.

The swearing-in ceremony was attended by political leaders, several Governors and Chief Ministers, the three service chiefs, diplomats, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Chairman of the Senate and Gilani.

The election of the new premier was necessitated because a bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry disqualified Gilani on Tuesday in response to several petitions that had challenged the National Assembly Speaker's decision not to disqualify him following his conviction for contempt.

The apex court ruled that the post of premier had been vacant since April 26, when another seven-judge bench had convicted Gilani of contempt for refusing to reopen graft cases in Switzerland against Zardari.

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