Mian Nawaz Sharif made history on Wednesday when he took oath as Prime Minister of Pakistan, for the third time, after receiving 244 votes for the post from the National Assembly, easily beating his rivals, the PPP’s Makhdum Amin Faheem (42 votes) and the PTI’s Javed Hashmi (31 votes). While he did create history by taking office for a third time, he also took charge of a formidable mountain of problems. About the first problem, of drone attacks, he said firmly that chapter should be closed. The party leaders, making congratulatory speeches, also spoke feelingly about the energy crisis, manifesting itself in prolonged energy loadshedding. The new Prime Minister said that this would be ended. He also promised to work untiringly for the progress of the economy, which he said was in poor shape. He also referred to resolving the problems of peace in Karachi.

One of the most immediate challenges that the Prime Minister will face will be the presentation of the next budget. That budget is likely to set the tone of the government for the rest of its term, apart from indicating the kind of thinking by Mian Nawaz on the revival of the economy. One of the first economic decisions after the presentation of the budget will be a decision on whether the balance of payments position warrants another appeal to the IMF. However, another challenge that he faces will be whether time has made him deft enough to avoid the fate he faced to end his second tenure. In a way, that will be the most challenging task ahead of him, on whether he can so conduct affairs that democracy remains on the rails. To ensure that happening, he will have to ensure that he does not repeat the mistakes of his predecessors, who allowed the pleasures of office to overwhelm the duty to serve the people. There was too much self-congratulation on the restoration of democracy, and not enough concentration on solving the people’s problems.

Mian Nawaz is no stranger to the task before him, having already held office longer cumulatively than any civilian before him. However, that familiarity does not mean that he will find it easy to solve the problems facing the country as a whole, such as loadshedding, inflation and crumbling infrastructure, or those affecting limited parts, such as law and order in Karachi and Balochistan, not to forget the drone attacks in the tribal areas. He must keep in mind that while the task is difficult, it is not impossible, and that he has the people’s representatives behind him, as shown by the vote on Wednesday, and thus should enjoy backing for the task ahead.