Imran Khan takes oath as Prime Minister of Pakistan

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan´s new Prime Minister Imran Khan was sworn in at a ceremony in Islamabad on Saturday, ushering in a new political era as the World Cup cricket hero officially took the reins of power in the nuclear-armed country.

The ceremony at the President´s House in the capital marks the end of decades of rotating leadership between the ousted Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

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”.

The 65-year-old former cricketer, who captained Pakistan to World Cup victory in 1992, had won a confidence vote in the National Assembly the previous day.

In parliament on Friday he came out fighting with a divisive speech in which he vowed to hold corrupt officials accountable.

Khan´s third wife, Bushra Bibi — formerly known as Bushra Maneka — kept her eyes cast modestly downwards during Saturday´s 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.

Khan had invited the rest of the 1992 cricket team to the ceremony, and fast bowler Wasim Akram was pictured smiling among the crowd.

Another cricketer-turned-politician, India´s Navjot Singh Sidhu, was seated in the front row and earlier warmly embraced the powerful Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Later, Khan went to the Prime Minister´s house in the capital, where he was met by a guard of honour.

First, accountability

Khan campaigned on promises to end widespread graft while building an “Islamic welfare state”.

“I promise to my God that everyone who looted this country will be made accountable,” he said in Friday´s speech to parliament.

“I am here after 22 years of struggle. No dictator has taken care of me. I am standing here in this parliament on my own feet,” he told the raucous assembly as opposition members shouted protest slogans.

He will face myriad challenges including militant extremism, water shortages, and a rapidly growing population negating growth in the developing country, among others.

Most pressing is a looming economic crisis, with speculation that Pakistan will have to seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

PTI fell short of an outright majority in the July 25 vote, forcing Khan to partner with smaller parties and independents in order to form a government.

But it retained its stronghold in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and has made an alliance with regional parties in Balochistan.

The party is also expected to form a coalition government in powerful Punjab, formerly a PML-N stronghold. Southern Sindh province remains in the hands of the PPP.

PTI secured the positions of Speaker and Deputy Speaker in the National Assembly — putting Khan in a strong position to act on his legislative agenda.

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