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Pakistani Finance Chief Clears Hurdle for Prime Ministership - 2004-08-19


Pakistan's finance minister has won an election, paving his way to become the country's next prime minister. The ruling party's choice to lead Parliament shows its new focus on economic issues.

Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz beat opponents in two by-elections, and the Parliament is expected to elect him as Pakistan's new prime minister next week.

The ruling Pakistan Muslim League party picked Mr. Aziz for the top legislative job in late June, arranging for two of its members of parliament to step down so he could secure a seat of his own.

Muslim League Secretary General Senator Mushahid Hussain says the veteran finance minister was chosen to give the party a strong voice on economic issues, which could play a key role in the next elections.

He said, "Our assessment is that the next elections in 2007 would focus primarily on domestic issues, unlike the 2002 elections which had a strong foreign policy component because of Afghanistan and Iraq."

Mr. Aziz was chosen to replace former Prime Minister Zafaullah Jamali, who had been denounced by some party leaders as generally inefficient and incompetent.

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