Imran Khan sworn-in as Pakistan’s new Prime Minister
Islamabad, Aug 18: ‘Kaptan’ Imran Khan today began a new innings as Pakistan’s Prime Minister, assuming the reins at a time when the country is facing serious financial woes, uneasy ties with its neighbours and possible international sanctions for failing to combat terrorism.
Khan, 65, the Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), was administered the oath of office as Pakistan’s 22nd Prime Minister by President Mamnoon Hussain at a simple ceremony held at the Aiwan-e-Sadr (the President House) here.
The ceremony, which was scheduled to begin at 9:30 am, started 40-minute late. It commenced with the national anthem, followed by recitation of verses from the Holy Quran.
Clad in a traditional greyish black Sherwani, a tearful former cricket hero was seen little nervous as he stumbled over some of the Urdu words of the oath administered to him.
Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, former Indian cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, diplomats and other special invitees attended the ceremony. Wasim Akram and other members of the 1992 cricket World Cup winning team that Khan captained to victory also watched the ceremony alongside senior PTI leaders.
“A new morning is here in Pakistan with a new government which can change destiny of the country,” Sidhu said, hoping that Khan’s victory will be good for Pakistan-India peace process.
India’s relations with Pakistan remain strained. Pakistan’s relations with war-torn Afghanistan have also plunged over the issue of “cross-border terrorism”.
The US has long been frustrated with Pakistan’s overt and covert support to the Afghan Taliban and other militant groups, forcing the Trump administration to warn Islamabad and to slash military aid to the country.
Khan has assumed charge days after a delegation of the global financial watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) asked Pakistan to strengthen its laws and implementation against terror financing and money laundering.
The Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering, which visited Pakistan this week, will submit a report to the Paris-based FATF which placed the country on its ‘grey list’ in June.
The delegation, according to media reports, has asked Pakistan to enact appropriate laws enabling local officials to act upon requests of foreign countries to freeze illegal assets and extradite those involved in “terrorism financing” and money laundering.
Pakistan needs to comply, by September next year, with a 10-point action plan it committed to the FATF earlier this year, to escape sanctions.
Prime Minister Khan has said that his initial focus would be on reviving Pakistan’s battered economy. Pakistan’s currency, the rupee, has declined significantly in the last year. Inflation is on the rise and the country’s trade deficit is widening.
The new PTI government will also have to deal with a huge debt burden and dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
Analysts say the new government may need to turn to the International Monetary Fund for Pakistan’s second bailout since 2013, which could complicate efforts to boost welfare.
Khan’s oath ceremony marks the end of decades of rotating leadership between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – the two main political parties that dominated Pakistan’s political scene when the powerful military was not ruling the Muslim-majority country.
Khan’s third wife Bushra Bibi was also present at the event.
Later, Khan was presented a guard of honour at the Prime Minister House. Khan had previously announced that he would not stay at the palatial home of the prime minister.
Khan, who described Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah as his hero, has promised to transform corruption affected Pakistan into an Islamic Welfare state.
The Oxford-educated Pasthun yesterday defeated his only rival and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief Shahbaz Sharif in a one-sided election for the top post in the National Assembly.
Khan secured 176 votes while Sharif got 96 votes. A total of 172 votes in the 342-member lower house of parliament are needed to form a government.
In his first address to parliament, Khan had vowed to act against those who looted Pakistan.
“I promise my nation today that we will bring the ‘tabdeeli’ (change) that this nation was starving for,” Khan said yesterday after winning the election.
“We have to hold strict accountability in this country; the people who looted this country, I promise that I will work against them,” he vowed.
The PTI emerged as the single largest party with 116 seats in July 25 elections. Its number increased to 125 after nine independent members joined it and final tally reached 158 after it was allotted 28 out of 60 seats reserved for women and five out of 10 seats reserved for minorities. He also has the support of smaller parties.
Khan’s government will be the third consecutive democratic government in Pakistan since 2008 when military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf announced elections after serving as president from 2001 to 2008 following a bloodless coup in 1999.
Pertinently, Khan struggled for 22 years to fulfill his dream of becoming Pakistan’s Prime Minister to transform the corruption-affected country into an Islamic welfare state.
The 65-year-old flamboyant former captain, described as one of Pakistan’s greatest cricketers who transformed his shaky team into champions in the 1992 Cricket World Cup, emerged as an inspiring leader in politics too.
The Oxford-educated Pasthun launched Tehreek-e-Insaf, which means the movement for justice, in 1996, but struggled to break the dominance of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Khan became a Member of Parliament in the 2002 elections. He was again elected to the National Assembly in the 2013 elections, when his party emerged as the second largest in the country by popular vote.
One year after elections, in May 2014, Khan alleged that the polls were rigged in favour of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz led by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
In August 2014, Khan led a rally of his supporters from Lahore to Islamabad, demanding Sharif’s resignation and investigation into alleged electoral fraud.
Within a month, Khan entered into an alliance with influential Pakistani-origin Canadian cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri with both pressing for dismissal of the Sharif government. The violent protests ended after Khan and Qadiri entered into an agreement with the Sharif government to set up a judicial commission to probe the allegations of poll rigging.
During his campaign in the 2018 elections, Khan promised to crackdown on corruption, enact anti-poverty programmes, improve healthcare and education and turn his country into an Islamic welfare state.
Khan, who is believed to have the backing of the powerful military, has vowed to make a ‘Naya Pakistan’ which would be an Islamic welfare state. He believes the “most viable” policy to ensure peace in the region was to cooperate with India, including on the Kashmir issue.
His party has prepared a 100-day plan to meet serious economic and administrative woes faced by the country.
In his victory speech last month, Khan said he was ready to improve Pakistan’s ties with India and his government would like the leaders of the two sides to resolve all disputes, including the “core issue” of Kashmir, through talks.
Khan also said that he wants balanced relations between Pakistan and America which should be mutually beneficial, not one-sided. Additionally, Khan said he and his party wanted stronger ties with both Iran and Saudi Arabia – the two rival powers in the West Asia (Middle East).
As a politician, Khan’s vision is to turn Pakistan into a just society, based on humane values, by creating an independent and honest judiciary that will uphold democracy, protect human rights and ensure the rule of law and, by promoting a merit based system that provides equal opportunity to all, according to Khan’s profile on his party’s website.
Khan, once touted as Pakistan’s most eligible bachelor for his rugged Pathani good looks, married thrice. His previous two marriages ended in divorce.
His first marriage was with Jemima Goldsmith, daughter of a British billionaire, in 1995, which lasted 9 years. Khan has two sons from her. His second marriage with TV anchor Reham Khan in 2015 ended after a brief 10 months.
Early this year, Khan married for the third time. This time with his “spiritual guide” Bushra Maneka.
Khan was born in Mianwali in 1952 to Ikramullah Khan Niazi and Shaukat Khanum. His father descended from the Pashtun (Pathan) Niazi tribe of the Shermankhel clan, his family is settled in Lahore, however, he still considers his background Pathan as per his autobiography.
He attended Aitchison College in Lahore and the Royal Grammar School Worcester in England. In 1972, he enrolled in Keble College, Oxford where he studied philosophy, politics and economics, graduating with honours in 1975.
Khan played Test cricket for Pakistan between 1971 and 1992, and was captain of the national team when they won the World Cup in 1992.