Imran Khan takes oath as PM of Pakistan

Published: August 18, 2018 17:56:42 | Updated: August 19, 2018 10:37:58

Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan (L) taking the oath of the Prime Minister from President Mamnoon Hussain in Islamabad on Saturday. -Reuters Photo

Former cricket star Imran Khan took oath as Pakistan’s 22nd prime minister on Saturday at the President’s House in Islamabad.

The new prime minister will have to form a coalition government to govern Pakistan, which has been plagued by economic boom-and-bust cycles as well as by Islamist militant violence in more recent years, reports Reuters.

The chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) won a general election last month promising to fight corruption and drastically reduce poverty among Pakistan’s 208 million mostly-Muslim people.

Imran's party holds 151 of the 342 seats in the national assembly, where a vote was held on Friday to decide who would be asked to form a government.

Khan easily defeated rival Shehbaz Sharif from the outgoing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, garnering 176 votes to Sharif’s 96 votes.

On Saturday, Khan recited the oath of office, wearing a traditional black sherwani coat in the style of his hero and Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

“I will bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan,” Khan read from the oath, standing next to President Mamnoon Hussain at the President’s House in Islamabad.

Later, he was given a guard of honor on the lawns of the prime minister’s house.

Military coup’s have punctuated Pakistan’s 71-year history, and Khan’s election was only the second democratic transfer of power.

If he completes his five-year term he will be the first Pakistani prime minister to do so.

Imran's first calls as prime minister will be figuring out how to deal with a looming currency crisis that threatens to derail an economy growing at around six per cent annually.

The new coalition government must urgently decide whether to ask the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout, or seek support from China, the country Pakistan regards as its most reliable ally.

Relations with the United States are frayed, with US officials fuming over Pakistan’s alleged support Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Islamabad denies aiding the insurgents.

Khan has promised to create millions of jobs and build world-class hospitals and schools in a country where more than 40 per cent of the population is illiterate.

The oath-taking was attended by scores of Pakistani celebrities, sportsmen, and politicians, as well as former Indian cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, who serves as tourism minister for India’s Punjab province.

After spending much of his political career on the fringes, the Oxford-educated former sportsman rose to power on a populist platform, and in recent years his anti-corruption message has increasingly resonated with Pakistanis, especially the young.

Khan’s opponents say he owes his ascent to covert support from the country’s powerful military, though both the army and Khan deny collusion.

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