Former cricket legend Imran Khan has been sworn in as Pakistan’s new prime minister on Saturday, paving the way for him to form a coalition government.
Promising to fight corruption and lift millions out of poverty, Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, received 176 votes on Friday, while his opponent, Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, got 96 votes.
Mr Khan took the oath of office on Saturday, a day after being elected by a majority of lawmakers in the National Assembly.
His Tehreek-e-Insaf party won the most seats in the July 25 national elections but fell short of an outright majority.
“Those people who have looted the country, I promise that they will be brought to justice,” Mr Khan said in a brief speech after the vote.
Pakistan has been plagued by boom-and-bust cycles and military coups since independence in 1947, as well militant violence in more recent years.
The central bank reported the country’s public sector external debt stands at $70.2 billion, or 26.6 percent of the GDP, with foreign reserves down to $10.1 billion, according to Aljazeera.
Mr Khan, a firebrand nationalist, promised to create millions of jobs and build world-class hospital and school systems in the Muslim-dominant country of 208 million people.
Among his first challenges will be to decide whether to request an International Monetary Fund bailout to ease currency pressures, or seek support from China and risk deepening Pakistan’s economic dependence on its neighbour.
The election of Khan’s party, known simply as the PTI, was bruised by allegations of military meddling and irregularities in the voting.
PTI and the military denied involvement tipping in Mr Khan’s favour, but the party formerly in power, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, cried accusations intelligence agencies coerced members to defect to Mr Khan’s party or run as independents.
In a sign of the bitter political division, opposition MPs surrounded Khan at the election announcement and shouted “thief, thief Imran Khan” after he was elected.
Khan’s PTI party holds 151 seats in the 342-seat lower chamber of parliament, short of a majority, but is expected to form a coalition government with smaller parties.
His success in the election ended decades of political dominance by two dynastic powerhouses, the PMLN of three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), founded and led by the Bhutto family.
But Khan will face a battle to push through his ambitious reforms and legislative agenda due to the thin majority in the National Assembly.
The Senate, parliament’s upper chamber, is controlled by the opposition.
“Legislative business will be difficult for him,” said Raza Ahmad Rumi, editor of the Daily Times newspaper.