A staunch ally of President Pervez Musharraf and the military was named prime minister by a narrow margin Thursday, but more tough political battles lie ahead in Pakistan's deeply divided parliament.
The National Assembly elected Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, 68, a former chief minister of Baluchistan province, ending almost six weeks of bitter negotiations and three years of military rule. He immediately made it clear he will follow Musharraf's path.
"My government will continue the policies of the last three years, in which Pakistan has emerged as a front-line state in the war against terror," he told legislators.
In a veiled warning to India, Jamali said he will maintain Musharraf's hard line on security issues.
"We want good relations with our neighbors," the new prime minister said. "Some of our neighbors want good relations, some don't. But we are able to respond to any aggression. We have responded in the past and we will continue to respond."
Opposition parties have accused Musharraf and the military's powerful Inter-Service Intelligence agency of threatening and buying off politicians to ensure that the new civilian government is led by allies.
Jamali's party is a breakaway faction of the Pakistan Muslim League. Its leader, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was overthrown in Musharraf's bloodless coup three years ago. Sharif and his family were exiled to Saudi Arabia.
Jamali's pro-military faction, called the PML(Q), have a total of 117 seats in the 342-seat National Assembly, far short of an outright victory.
He won the prime minister's post Thursday with the support of smaller parties, and maverick members of exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party.
Jamali polled 172 votes in the National Assembly, giving him a slight majority that will be hard to maintain as the new government confronts a long list of problems, including widespread resentment toward the U.S. search for suspected terrorists in Pakistan.
The country's new prime minister is an avid sportsman, built like a barrel, who helped from the front office to lead the country's field hockey team to a gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics. He'll need a lot more than deft stick work to survive the rough and tumble of Pakistani politics.
In a speech to the nation Wednesday night, Musharraf promised to hand over power to the new prime minister within two days.