Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, speaks during an interview in Islamabad, Pakistan. (Photographer: Asad Zaidi/Bloomberg)

Pakistan’s Khan Names Cabinet, Vowing to Eliminate Corruption

(Bloomberg) -- Imran Khan was sworn in as Pakistan’s prime minister on Saturday after winning a vote from a majority lawmakers with a pledge to curb corruption through “ruthless accountability.”

President Mamnoon Hussain took oath from the 65-year-old former cricket star in Islamabad. Khan then appointed his senior lawmakers Asad Umar, a former head of Pakistani conglomerate Engro Corp., as his finance minister and Shah Mahmood Qureshi as the foreign minister in a 20-member cabinet, according to a statement from his office.

Umar faces the immediate challenge of an economy in crisis, with rising deficits and depleting foreign reserves. The central bank has devalued the currency four times since December and hiked interest rates. Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the nation’s outlook to negative, citing the nation’s worsening finances. Umar said in an interview this month that Pakistan may need more than $12 billion to plug the finance gap. A decision on where to source funds needs to be made by September at the latest, he said.

Qureshi will have to deal with building U.S. pressure on the nuclear-armed nation over its alleged support for insurgent groups as well as improving ties with neighbors India and Afghanistan.

Billion Dollar Bailout

Khan, whose Movement for Justice party won the most seats in last month’s national poll, beat his opponent Shehbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz to Pakistan’s premiership amid protests by opposition parties in the National Assembly on Friday.

Many investors, analysts and politicians expect most or part of the nation’s financing will come from an International Monetary Fund bailout. With Pakistan a key country along its Belt and Road trade route, China has also been providing the South Asian nation with billions of dollars in stop-gap loans this year.

In his speech to Parliament on Friday, Khan pledged not to spare those who looted the nation’s wealth, while his rival Shehbaz demanded that Khan launch a probe into election rigging or face “street protests.” Khan is scheduled to make a nation-wide televised speech, his first after becoming the premier, on Sunday, Khan’s media official Anila Khawaja said in a text message on Saturday.

The main opposition groups including Shehbaz’s Pakistan Muslim League and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party have complained that rigging and military manipulation helped Khan win the July 25 ballot. Both Khan and the army deny the allegations.

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