KARACHI Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has picked senator Ishaq Dar as his finance minister in the new cabinet that he is putting together after leading his party back to power, a party spokesman said on Monday.
Dar, who served as finance minister in a previous Sharif cabinet in the 1990s, has said he plans to push provincial governments to collect agricultural taxes, a policy that could set him on a collision course with some of the Pakistan Muslim League's (PML-N) wealthy backers.
Sharif has suggested he would be willing to implement some of the politically-sensitive reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund in order to secure billions of dollars to keep the economy afloat.
Dar, an accountant by training, negotiated an IMF package in 1998. But he told Reuters in a recent interview that the PML-N was not yet committed to seeking IMF help, and any package "would have to be right for the country".
Pakistan's stock market hit a record high on Monday as Sharif looked set to form a government that would be less fragile than expected after the May 11 election, dealers said.
The Karachi Stock Exchange .KSE jumped 1.6 percent to scale the 20,000 mark on expectations that the new leader would have a freer hand in pursuing reforms to revive the economy.
"There is an expectation that the economy will be much better handled by one party, and a pro-business party, leading the government as opposed to an unstable coalition," said Samar Iqbal, of Topline Securities.
Sharif may not win enough seats to rule on his own but has made enough gains to avoid having to form a coalition with his main rivals, former cricketer Imran Khan's Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP).
Television channels said Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) had captured 125 of the 272 contested National Assembly seats.
(Reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Katharine Houreld; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)