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Sharif scion takes charge of Pakistan’s most powerful province

ISLAMABAD: The son of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took charge of Punjab province Saturday, the country’s most politically important region, further bolstering the dynasty’s grip on power. Nepotism and cronyism are deeply entrenched in the Muslim-majority nation of more than 220 million people, with power mostly shared between two families-the Sharifs and the Bhuttos-for much of Pakistan’s history.

It comes weeks after cricket superstar turned politician Imran Khan was ousted from power in a no-confidence vote when the usually feuding families formed an opposition coalition. Hamza Shehbaz Sharif took over as chief minister of Punjab-the country’s richest, most populous and politically influential province-after weeks of deadlock.

The region’s governor and a Khan loyalist refused to swear in the new chief, elected by the provincial assembly, forcing Lahore High Court to step in. “Today a month-long political crisis in Punjab has come to an end,” the 47-year-old Sharif told reporters after he was sworn in.

“I will seek guidance from the prime minister Shehbaz Sharif and will take coalition partners into confidence.” The Sharif family, including three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the brother of the new prime minister, have been embroiled in countless corruption and money laundering allegations-and Hamza Sharif is no exception.

The family deny the accusations and argue they are politically motivated. The younger Sharif’s appointment as Punjab province’s chief minister comes days after Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was appointed as one of world’s youngest foreign ministers at the age of 33.

Khan was voted in by an electorate weary of two-party dynasties in 2018 on a promise of sweeping away decades of entrenched corruption and cronyism. But he struggled to maintain support with soaring inflation, a feeble rupee and crippling debt. Since his ouster Khan has taken to the streets and held massive rallies that attract thousands in the hope of forcing an early election before the next October 2023 poll. – AFP

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