Pakistan’s parliament elected Khan to lead the government. The former cricketer-turned politician’s Pakistan Movement for Justice (PTI) won most votes in the recent general election. But the PTI will need to govern in a coalition.
Pakistan’s cricketing legend-turned-politician Imran Khan was sworn in as the country’s prime minister on Saturday.
This came after he was elected head of the government on Friday when lawmakers in the lower house — the National Assembly — of parliament voted for a new prime minister.
Khan received 176 votes in the 342-seat National Assembly, said Asad Qaiser, the speaker of the parliament. Rival candidate, Shehbaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), garnered 96 votes.
A tearful Khan, clad in a traditional black sherwani, smiled as he stumbled over some of the words of the oath administered to him by President Mamnoon Hussain during the ceremony, televised live by the state broadcaster PTV.
He swore to “bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan”, and to “discharge my duties and perform my functions honestly, to the best of my ability… and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan.”
Khan’s third wife, Bushra Bibi — formerly known as Bushra Maneka — kept her eyes cast modestly downwards during the ceremony.
It was her first public appearance since their wedding earlier this year, and she appeared escorted by tight security and covered from head to toe in a white niqab, a conservative garment by Pakistani standards.
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), or Pakistan Movement for Justice, won most votes in Pakistan’s July 25 general election. It garnered almost 17 million votes, trouncing the Pakistan Muslim League, the incumbent governing party of jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, which finished second with just under 13 million ballots.
Khan’s party say they have enough support in the National Assembly from minor parties to form a governing coalition, which will lead the country for the next five years.
An ally of Khan’s, the PTI’s Asad Qaiser, was earlier elected speaker of Pakistan’s lower house, paving the way for Friday’s vote when a simple majority made the former cricketing star the country’s prime minister.
Khan’s PTI won the July 25 election, but did not have enough seats for an outright majority, forcing its leader to partner with smaller parties and independents in order to form a government.
The election was branded “Pakistan’s dirtiest,” after widespread claims in the months leading up to it that the powerful military was trying to fix the playing field against the PML-N of jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Khan’s favour.
TRT World’s Shoaib Hasan speaks about the challenges that Imran Khan faces as the country’s new prime minister.
Allegations of vote-rigging
Rival parties have alleged “blatant” vote-rigging. The army and Khan have denied the claims.
Khan’s victory represents an end to decades of rotating leadership between the PML-N, now led by Sharif’s brother Shehbaz, and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), punctuated by periods of military rule.
Khan and the PTI campaigned on promises to end widespread graft while building an “Islamic welfare state.”
The party has already formed a government in its stronghold of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and an alliance with regional parties in the southwestern province of Balochistan.
It is expected to form a coalition government in powerful Punjab province, formerly a PML-N stronghold, in coming days. Sindh province remained in the hands of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
PTI candidates were also voted Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly this week, putting Khan in a strong position to carry forward his legislative agenda.
He will face myriad challenges including militant extremism, water shortages, and a booming population negating growth in the developing country, among others.
Most pressing will be a looming economic crisis, with speculation that Pakistan will have to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
He will also have to contend with the same issue as many of his predecessors: how to maintain a balance of power in civil-military relations.
In the West, Khan is often seen as a celebrity whose high-profile romances were tabloid fodder, but at home he cuts a more conservative persona as a devout Muslim who believes feminism has degraded motherhood.
Known in Pakistan as “Taliban Khan” for his calls to hold talks with insurgents, he increasingly catered to religious hardliners during the campaign, spurring fears his leadership could embolden extremists.