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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Pakistan's newly elected parliament meets for first time

The lawmakers were sworn in at a brief ceremony in the 342-seat National Assembly

In this photo released by the National Assembly, newly elected parliamentarian Imran Khan, left, takes the oath of office. AP
In this photo released by the National Assembly, newly elected parliamentarian Imran Khan, left, takes the oath of office. AP

Pakistan's newly elected parliament convened Monday for the first time since last month's general elections that saw the party of former cricket star turned politician Imran Khan win most seats, propelling him toward the post of the country's next prime minister.

The lawmakers were sworn in at a brief ceremony in the 342-seat National Assembly, the decision-making lower house of parliament.

The parliament is to elect a speaker and his deputy on Wednesday and vote on the prime minister the following day. The swearing-in ceremony for the prime minister is due Saturday.

Mr Khan's populist Tahreek-e-Insaf party won 115 seats in the July 25 vote, requiring it to form a coalition.

In the days after the elections, party spokesman Fawad Chaudhry said more lawmakers joined the party's ranks and that it now enjoys the backing of 180 parliament members. Mr Khan needs 172 lawmaker votes to be become prime minister.

Mr Khan's candidate for parliament speaker, Asad Qaiser, said he was pretty sure of winning the post.

Mr Khan has campaigned on the promise of a "New Pakistan" with justice for all, pledging to wipe out corruption and help the poor.

Since the elections, Mr Khan has adopted a conciliatory approach to Pakistan's neighbors and allies, saying he wants peace with hostile neighbor India, praising China's economic strategy and sending a message to Washington that he wants good relations.

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He enjoys the support of the country's powerful military establishment, although he has been known to go his own way.

As he entered parliament on Monday, lawmakers from his party chanted slogans praising Mr Khan. Pakistan's former President Asif Ali Zardari and head of the ex-ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, Shahbaz Sharif, both elected lawmakers, also attended Monday's ceremony.

The Pakistan Muslim League party has claimed the elections were rigged to prevent disgraced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from returning to power.

Though the National Assembly is tasked with passing laws, its decisions must be approved by the Senate, or upper house of parliament, which consists of 104 members who are elected by the lower house and the four provincial assemblies.

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