New Delhi: Imran Khan was sworn in as Pakistan's new prime minister on Saturday, nearly 22 years after the former cricket hero entered politics. Khan, 65, the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), was administered the oath of office by President Mamnoon Hussain at a simple ceremony held at the Aiwan-e-Sadr (the President House) in Islamabad.
The ceremony commenced with the national anthem, followed by recitation of verses from the Holy Quran. Clad in a black sherwani, Khan was seen as little nervous as he faced difficulties in pronouncing some Urdu words during the oath.
Khan, who famously captained the national cricket team to World Cup glory in 1992, has also invited some of his former teammates to witness his formal ascension to the top ministerial job in the country.
Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, former Indian cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, cricketer-turned-commentator Rameez Raja, former paceman Wasim Akram were among the special guests present at the ceremony. Sidhu was seated next to the ‘president’ of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir Masood Khan, news agency ANI reported.
In a high octane voting at the country’s National Assembly on Friday, marred by protests by various political factions, Khan garnered 176 votes while his opponent, PML(N)-backed Shehbaz Sharif, got 96 votes.
In an unprecedented move, Khan is set to make one of the PM staff quarters his home for the term. He had announced during his victory speech that he would not stay in the lavish official residence meant for the PM and would convert it into an institution for public consumption. Now, soon after his oath-taking ceremony, it is almost certain that he would move into the residence of the military secretary.
While there has been no confirmation on the possible federal cabinet, speculation is rife that vice chair of Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Shah Mehmood Qureshi will be made the foreign minister. Born in Punjab, Qureshi is a veteran politician who was foreign minister from 2008 to 2011 and has also been the mayor of Multan.
Asad Umar, a former business analyst, is a top contender for the position of the Minister of Finance. Shireen Mazari’s name has been doing the rounds as Minister of Defence. Another of Khan’s close aides, Fawad Chaudhary, is the favourite to be the Minister of Information and Broadcasting.
There are very high chances of Khan starting off with a short cabinet declaration, inducting about 12-15 people in the top most positions. It will further be expanded in due course. Considering Khan’s sweep across the country, the chances of him having a representative from all provinces in top positions are high.
Born in Lahore in 1952, Imran Khan was raised in an affluent Pashtun family and educated at the most elite institutions, including Oxford. Married thrice with two children, one of the brightest moments for him as a cricketer was lifting the World Cup in 1992.
Khan, however, got off to a rough start to his innings on Friday when during the Assembly session, he dared the Opposition leaders to go on strike if they wanted to, saying that the PTI would provide them with necessities to conduct it. He said he had waited for 22 years to get to where he was and that Jinnah was the only man who has struggled more than he has. Promising the people full accountability and development, he said he will answer to the people twice every month during the question-answer session in the Assembly.
Shehbaz Sharif called it the worst election in the history of the country, he said he will not attack parliament but will hold Khan accountable for “stealing votes.” PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto challenged Khan on creation of jobs and on how he intended to solve Pakistan’s economic crisis.
(With PTI inputs)