Former Pakistan captain and World Cup winner Imran Khan has won a parliamentary vote, confirming him as the next prime minister of Pakistan. Following the success of his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice), in elections across the country last month, his election to the top political job was imminent. He beat the rival candidate, Shehbaz Sharif, by 176 votes to 96.
All that remains before Imran officially takes over as prime minister is an inauguration ceremony, to be held on Saturday. Initially, Imran had grand plans for the event, wanting it to be a celebration that extended beyond the political nature of the occasion, and hoped to invite a number of his cricketing contemporaries from India. Invitations were being mooted for, among others, Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, and Navjot Sidhu. However, Imran backtracked later, opting for a more “austere” ceremony. Sidhu, who had called Imran a “pure soul who led from the front” after the elections, will be present though.
Imran’s dovish remarks about India since the elections may have given long-suffering fans on both sides of the border hope that cricketing ties between the two countries may be closer to resuming. Political tensions have meant India and Pakistan haven’t played any bilateral cricket since Pakistan toured India in 2012 for two T20Is and three ODIs, while the last time they played a Test match was back in 2007. The next fixture between the two, however, is mere weeks away – a group stage tie at the Asia Cup in the UAE in September.
Since retiring from cricket after winning the World Cup in 1992, Imran has increasingly turned his attention to politics. He formed his own political party in 1996, but it wasn’t until 15 years later in 2011 that he emerged as a serious political force. His party was one of the main opposition forces after the 2013 elections when Nawaz Sharif became prime minister.
Now, with Imran finally ascending to the job he has eyed for over two decades, there could be significant changes afoot in Pakistan, particularly as far as cricket is concerned. He has a famously poor relationship with the current chairman of the PCB, Najam Sethi, who he has repeatedly accused over the years of helping Nawaz Sharif unjustly win the elections in 2013. With the prime minister allowed – according to the PCB constitution – to change the PCB chairman if he so desires, Sethi’s days at the helm of the PCB could be numbered.