Imran Khan to be sworn in as Pakistan's prime minister

2018-08-17 17:15
Pakistan's cricketer-turned politician and head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party Imran Khan. (Handout, PID, AFP)

Pakistan's cricketer-turned politician and head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party Imran Khan. (Handout, PID, AFP)

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Imran Khan has been elected Pakistan's prime minister by the parliament after his party swept the general election last month, marking the beginning of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) tenure in power.

Members of the National Assembly voted in the capital Islamabad on Friday for Khan to be leader of the house, making him Pakistan's head of state.

Khan will take oath on Saturday, form a cabinet and assume control of the government in the coming days.

The long-time opposition politician takes the reins of power for the first time in his 22-year political career, having led a strenuous campaign against corruption and government mismanagement since he retired as one of Pakistan's most popular cricketer in 1992.

On Friday, Khan, with 176 votes, beat Shehbaz Sharif, chair of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, who got 96 votes, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser announced.

Sharif's party was decimated at the polls, dropping down to 81 seats in the 342-member house, in comparison to the PTI's 151 seats. The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) came in third with 54 seats.

The PTI has heralded the election win – the first time anyone other than the PML-N, the PPP or the country's powerful military has ruled Pakistan in more than four decades – as "the end of an era".

"There has been a change of generations," said party spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry. "The priorities will now change. The old politics was synonymous with cronyism, corruption and incompetence. Let's hope we can end this era."

Khan's election victory was marred by widespread allegations of irregularities in the vote counting process, and opposition parties say they will continue to lobby for the results to be investigated.

In his victory speech following the polls, Khan said he welcomed any investigations, and that his party would support the process.

Economic woes

Khan inherits a country facing a slew of problems, not least on the economic front, where fiscal and trade deficits have ballooned, leading to increasing public debt and dwindling foreign reserves.

The country's public sector external debt stands at $70.2bn, or 26.6% of the GDP, with foreign reserves down to $10.1bn, according to the central bank.

"We will tackle issues on multiple fronts, but obviously the economic front is foremost," said Chaudhry.

Earlier this month, PTI leader Asad Umar, widely tipped to be the country's finance minister, said the government would consider all options to tackle the balance of payments crisis, including approaching the International Monetary Fund, bilateral loans, and issuing bonds to overseas Pakistanis.

"It seems that reasonably urgent decision making is required," he said at a briefing to international media on August 7, terming the situation "dire".

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