Pakistani legislators have elected former cricket star and long-time politician Imran Khan as the country’s next prime minister, in a step towards the country’s third civilian transfer of power.
He secured 176 votes in a vote at the National Assembly, defeating opposition candidate Shahbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League party, who got 96 votes.
Mr Khan’s populist Tehrik-e-Insaf party won the most seats in the July 25 vote but fell short of securing a majority in the 342-seat house.
He will be sworn in as prime minister on Saturday, with a five-year mandate.
Mr Khan is a former Oxford graduate and formed his party in 1996 in the eastern city of Lahore, vowing to forge a “new Pakistan” that would be corruption-free with justice for all without discrimination.
He challenged the parties of Mr Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari over the past two decades.
He was not able to make a strong showing until 2013, when his became the third-largest party in the lower house of parliament.
Mr Sharif is the younger brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who is serving a 10-year jail term in a corruption case.
Mr Khan acquired a reputation as a playboy during his cricketing years but has since embraced conservative Islam after entering politics.
In his 2011 book Pakistan: A Personal History, he noted his ambition to come to power when his Islamic nation held free and fair elections.
Aside from tackling corruption, and a vision to introduce “surgical reforms” in governance, one of the key challenges facing Mr Khan is how to improve ties with the US.
Mr Khan was elected as Pakistan’s new premier a day after the Foreign Ministry confirmed the suspension of a US military training programme for Pakistani soldiers.
Thursday’s announcement underscored the persistent tensions between the two allies in the war on terror.
The programme is the latest to suffer from cuts to US security aid to Pakistan, announced at the beginning of this year. The US accuses Pakistan of harbouring militant groups and providing safe havens for insurgents who carry out attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan, a charge Islamabad denies.
Pakistan also repeatedly reminds the US that it has lost thousands of soldiers — more than the US and Nato in Afghanistan combined — in its fight against militants in its territory.