Pakistani lawmakers on Friday elected former cricket star and longtime politician Imran Khan as the country's next prime minister, in a step toward the country's third civilian transfer of power. In the vote at the National Assembly, Khan secured 176 votes, defeating the opposition's candidate, Shahbaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League party, who got 96 votes, the AP reports. Sharif is the younger brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who's serving a 10-year jail term in a corruption case. The populist Tehrik-e-Insaf party won the most seats in a July 25 vote but fell short of securing a majority in the 342-seat house. Khan, whose supporters celebrated across the country when Speaker Asad Qaiser announced the results, is to be sworn in as prime minister on Saturday, with his mandate to last five years.
Khan is a former Oxford graduate who formed his party in 1996 to forge a "new Pakistan" that would be corruption free and with justice for all without discrimination. He challenged the parties of Sharif and former President Asif Ali Zardari over the past two decades. He wasn't able to make a strong showing until 2013, when his became the third-largest party in the lower house of Parliament. He was finally able to triumph over his opponents in last month's vote. Khan acquired a reputation as somewhat of a playboy during his cricketing years but has since embraced conservative Islam after entering politics. Aside from tackling corruption, one of the key challenges now facing Khan is how to improve ties with the United States. The US accuses Pakistan of harboring militant groups and providing safe havens for insurgents who carry out attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.
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