Pakistan's all-powerful military overthrew Nawaz Sharif 14 years ago and hustled him off into exile in handcuffs. Now he's back as prime minister-elect, with the army watching his every move, especially steps planned to ease tension with arch-rival India. Full Article
NEWSMAKER - Australia PM heads to polls after reviving party
SYDNEY (Reuters) - New Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has turned around the ruling Labor party's fortunes in just a few weeks and could now lead the government into a second term at an upcoming election.
Gillard is likely to pick Aug. 28 as the poll date, Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Friday, citing party sources.
Australia's first female prime minister, appointed last month by a Labor party fearing electoral defeat under predecessor Kevin Rudd, is a quick-witted politician, with a broad Australian accent and a working-class pedigree.
In her short tenure as leader, Gillard has scored some quick political wins for Labor, ending a bitter three-month row with global miners over a new tax in just eight days.
She has also crossed the country in a charm offensive to reconnect the Labor government with voters dissillusioned by Rudd's bureaucratic style of leadership.
An unmarried, childless, 48-year-old, who does not believe in God, Gillard looked an easy target for radio jocks, but her cool demeanour, sense of humour and intellect appears to have won many people over.
Confronted with her lack of religious beliefs, Gillard said she had no intention of pretending to believe in God to attract religiously-inclined voters.
"I am not going to pretend a faith I don't feel. I am what I am and people will judge that," Gillard said.
"I grew up in the Christian church, a Christian background. I won prizes for catechism, for being able to remember Bible verses. I am steeped in that tradition, but I've made decisions in my adult life about my own views," she said.
"For people of faith, I think the greatest compliment I could pay to them is to respect their genuinely held beliefs and not to engage in some pretence about mine."
Her relationship with long-term partner Tim Mathieson has been criticised by pro-marriage groups and rightwing commentators but hailed by feminists. It has also sparked humour with headlines: "Tim Mathieson - Australia's "First bloke".
Some media have tagged Gillard action woman for ressurecting Labor's electoral prospects so quickly.
Protest group Getup produced a 2010 election video portraying Gillard as a Hollywood action figure with a high-powered guns and samurai sword, executing Rudd and shooting it out with conservative leader Tony Abbott. (www.getup.org.au/)
But Gillard can be self-deprecating, telling journalists she is anything but athletic. "Anybody who's met me and knows how unbelievably clumsy I am...wouldn't see me as much of an action hero, so I'm sorry to disappoint," she told radio.
Gillard arrived in Australia, aged four, in the 1960s from south Wales, a cradle of Britain's own Labour movement. Her father had gone to work before finishing school, his family too poor to support him through higher education.
Gillard initially lived in a migrant hostel in the rural town of Adelaide before her father bought a house. She studied law at university, where she got involved in politics and then became a partner in a law firm specialising in class actions and personal injury cases before working as a political adviser.
RACISM AND CLIMATE CHANGE
On the political front Gillard was forged by Labor's left wing, but her ascendency to prime minister was the result of right wing powerbrokers of the party.
Gillard was first elected to parliament in 1998, and quickly rose to become a leading light of the Labor left, appointed shadow health minister in 2003 and then backing Rudd for the leadership in return for the deputy Labor leadership.
Gillard remained in Rudd's shadow until Labor's opinion-poll meltdown this year when, without apparent hesitation or squeamishness, she made her move to stand against her former boss just months away from a general election.
She immediately apologised to voters, saying the Labor government had lost its way and made mistakes.
She quickly ended a politically damaging row over a new mining tax by watering it down to 30 percent from 40 percent and convincing three of the world's biggest miners, BHP BillitonBHP.LBHP.L, Rio Tinto(RIO.L)(RIO.L) and XstrataXTA.L, to sign off on the deal, giving the government an extra A$10.5 billion in revenue from 2012.
Gillard then took on the "hot button" issue of asylum seekers and border protection, which may determine key marginal seats at the election, announcing plans for a possible processing centre in neighbouring East Timor.
But Gillard went one step further than most Australian politicians and talked about the racism that surrounds the issue.
"There are racists in every country but expressing a desire for a clear and firm policy to deal with a very difficult problem does not make you a racist," she said.
And on the issue of climate change, Gillard has been just as forthright, declaring Australia will have a carbon price to cut emissions, but not until there is community consensus.
"I believe in climate change, I believe it's caused by human activity and I believe we've got an obligation to act," she said. (Editing by Ed Davies & Kazunori Takada)
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