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Challenges lined up for Imran Khan
With Pakistani lawmakers endorsing Imran Khan as their next prime minister and the World Cup cricket hero set to be sworn in on Saturday, the country enters an interesting, new political phase.

Among the first challenges lined up for the cricket legend will be to decide whether to request an International Monetary Fund bailout to ease currency pressures or seek support from close ally China.

During the campaign, Khan promised to create millions of jobs and build world-class hospital and school systems. He also pledged to end widespread corruption.

What is likely to pose a hurdle in pushing through his ambitious reforms and legislative agenda is the thin majority in the National Assembly.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party holds 151 seats in the 342-seat lower chamber of parliament, short of a majority, and is forming a coalition government with smaller parties.

The PTI has already formed a government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and an alliance with regional parties in Balochistan.

It is expected to form a coalition government in powerful Punjab province, formerly a PML-N stronghold, in the coming days.

What comes as a consolation for Khan is that PTI candidates were voted speaker and deputy speaker of the National Assembly this week.

On another front, Khan will have to contend with the same issue that many of his predecessors faced: how to maintain a balance of power in civil-military relations.

Another pressing challenge is the water issue. Much of the water used in Pakistan comes from its two largest dams — the Tarbela and the Mangla. Both are managed by government agency, the Indus River System Authority (IRSA). In March, IRSA said the dams had, for the first time in 15 years, reached the “dead level”: the point at which their water cannot be drained by gravity, and can only be pumped out.

Consensus also needs to be developed on Kalabagh Dam and many more small dams at the national level.

Khan’s victory has effectively ended decades of political dominance by two dynastic powerhouses, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of three-time premier Nawaz Sharif, and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), founded and led by the Bhutto family.

Now begins the new innings for Imran Khan and indications are that the new premier has the ability and acumen to tackle political googlies and steer the country with high scores.

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