- Associated Press - Sunday, August 19, 2018

ISLAMABAD (AP) - Prime Minister Imran Khan said in his first televised speech in office that Pakistan is in the worst economic condition it has seen and pledged to cut government spending, end corruption and repatriate public funds.

A day after he was sworn in, Khan promised reforms across all fields. “I want to see Pakistan a great country” with social services for the poor, Khan said.

Khan pointed to the growing divide between the rich and poor and said he would adopt austerity measures to relieve the strain on the economy and tackle the country’s foreign debt, over $95 billion.

“The interest that we have to pay on our debt has reached a level that we have to take on more debt just to repay our obligations,” said Khan, calling on Pakistanis abroad to save their money in the country’s banks during this financial crunch.

Khan added that his government will also reform the police, health and education sectors, referring to his party’s successes in those fields in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Khan spoke only briefly on foreign policy. “We will keep good relations with all countries; we want peace as without it no progress and development is possible,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the legislature in Pakistan’s largest Punjab province elected a member of Khan’s party as chief minister following last month’s elections.

Usman Buzdar won a majority of 186 votes out of 371 in the Punjab provincial assembly in Lahore, defeating Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, who secured 159. Sharif is the son of the previous chief minister, Shahbaz Sharif, and the nephew of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been jailed on corruption allegations.

Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League won the most seats in the Punjab assembly in last month’s elections, but Buzdar prevailed with the support of independents and allied parties.

Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf is now the governing party in the National Assembly as well as the provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

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Associated Press writer Zaheer Babar in Lahore, Pakistan, contributed to this report.


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