Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), also known as Movement for Justice, speaks during a campaign rally in Lahore, Pakistan. (Photographer: Asad Zaidi/Bloomberg)

Imran Khan Wins Lawmaker Vote to Become Pakistan Premier

(Bloomberg) -- Imran Khan won a lawmaker vote on Friday to secure Pakistan’s premiership, promising to probe the nation’s soaring debt and start a “ruthless accountability” program.

Khan was elected as prime minister by 176 votes compared to the 96 of his opposition rival Shehbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. The 65-year-old former cricket star’s assent became certain after the Pakistan Peoples Party, the third largest group, abstained from the vote and declined to back Sharif’s candidacy, despite both parties claiming rigging and military manipulation at the July 25 ballot. Khan pledged to investigate the charges and the army has consistently denied the allegations.

“We won’t spare anyone who looted the national wealth,” Khan said in a speech after the vote that was disrupted by opposition jeers and protest in parliament.

Imran Khan Wins Lawmaker Vote to Become Pakistan Premier

Khan’s Movement for Justice party, or Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, will now have to focus on Pakistan’s rapidly deteriorating finances as the U.S. continues to pressure the nuclear-armed nation over its alleged support for insurgent groups. It is only the second successful, consecutive transfer of power between civilian governments in a country that has been ruled directly by the military for almost half its 71-year existence.

After galvanizing voters, particularly Pakistan’s large young electorate, Khan’s PTI has made promises to both expand social spending, while attempting to fix the economy and rebuild the nation’s depleted finances. Despite forming a majority with the support of independents and several smaller parties, Khan’s ability to govern and push through reforms will continue to be tested.