Ex-cricketer Imran Khan takes over as Pakistan’s PM with a slogan of ‘Change’

ISLAMABAD – Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan was sworn in as 22nd prime minister of Pakistan on Saturday morning.

President Mamnoon Hussain administered the oath to Mr. Khan in a ceremony attended by diplomats, ministers, lawmakers, other political leaders, military and civil officials and foreign dignitaries.

Members of the 1992 cricket World Cup winning team that Mr. Khan captained to victory also watched the ceremony in Islamabad.

Khan was elected by the country’s lawmakers as the new prime minister on Friday.

In a speech to parliament, the 65-year-old reiterated his campaign promise to hold “corrupt” politicians to account, and to improve opportunities for young people.

“I promise my nation today that we will bring the tabdeeli (change) that this nation was starving for.

“First of all, we will start strict accountability. I promise to my God that everyone who looted this country will be made accountable,” he said.

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“I did not climb on any dictator’s shoulders; I reached this place after struggling for 22 years.”

” 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.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or Movement for Justice, emerged as the single largest party in the July 25 parliamentary elections, securing 176 votes out of the total 342 in the lower house of Parliament.

The election came over two decades after the cricket-turned-politician entered politics.

The Friday’ voting had become a formality after Bilawal Bhutto-led Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) having 54 seats abstained in the wake of a rift over the candidature of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Shehbaz Sharif. The PML-N leader could secure only 96 votes in the National Assembly.

Oxford-educated Imran, a Pashtun, had founded Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (the movement for justice) in 1996.

Before that, he had an illustrious career in international cricket spanning two decades from the 1970s.

In 1995, at the age of 43, he married the 21-year-old British heiress, Jemima Goldsmith – the daughter of one of the world’s richest men at the time, Sir James Goldsmith.

The marriage produced two boys but was dissolved in 2004. The split was amicable, and Mr. Khan appears to have maintained a friendly relationship with his ex-wife.

A second marriage in 2015, to journalist Reham Khan, lasted less than a year. The former BBC weather presenter alleges she was bullied by his supporters and has written a tell-all memoir.

Imran Khan wed again in 2018 in a low-profile ceremony in Lahore. His third wife Bushra Watto, a mother of five, was described as his spiritual adviser, and observers say the match plays well with his public shows of devotion to Islam.

Counted as some of the most followed leaders on Twitter, he keeps the citizens of the country updated with the strategies and campaigns of his party. The PTI chief has secured the seventh position with a whopping 8.26 million followers. From tweeting images of his campaign rallies to sharing throwback pictures, the leader has an immense presence online.

Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron as well as Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu also follow the PTI chairman. He is also the most active political leader in Pakistan, unlike his counterparts.

The most followed leader in the world, US President Donald Trump, tops the list with 53.5 million followers. Following close behind, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the second most followed leader in the world with 43.3 million followers on Twitter. Pope Francis comes third with 17.7 million followers.