ISLAMABAD - Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf Chairman Imran Khan Saturday sworn-in as 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan, ushering in a new political era in the developing country which faces daunting challenges.

High hopes are pinned on the World Cup cricket hero whose taking of power marked the end of decades of rotating leadership between the ousted Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Peoples Party, punctuated by periods of army rule.

President Mamnoon Hussain administered the oath to the new prime minister at Aiwan-i-Sadr in a simple ceremony, which began as the trumpeters of the Presidential Guard played the arrival tune.

Attired in a black Sherwani and white Shalwar, Imran entered the hall along with President Mamnoon and caretaker prime minister Justice (r) Nasirul Mulk and went straight to the dais.

The national anthem was played and the Cabinet Secretary announced opening of the event with the recitation from the Holy Quran. The 15-minute event began at 10:10am and was televised live by the state broadcaster PTV.

President Mamnoon Hussain administered the oath to PTI chief in Urdu and few times Imran fumbled and felt difficulty in pronouncing some words.

He swore to “discharge my duties and perform my functions honestly, to the best of my ability... and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan”.

It was one of the most jam-packed events in the history of the Aiwan-e-Sadr as the Presidency staff barely managed to squeeze in over 900 seats in a hall. However, the members of the opposition parties opted to stay away from the ceremony.

The hall was almost full to capacity by 0900 hrs. Khan, who secured 176 votes from the National Assembly Friday, against 96 by Mian Shehbaz Sharif of the PML-N, looked relaxed after weeks of tense politicking and efforts to set up a new government.

Khan shook hands with a long meandering line up of guests, who were lucky enough to get through the strict security and protocol cordons of the Aiwan-e-Sadr. However, the jubilant party workers continued to jump lines, prompting the security to an early end to the reception.

In her first public appearance since their wedding, Imran Khan’s third wife Bushra Bibi appeared escorted by tight security and covered from head to toe.

Attired in an all white dress with a matching veil and rosary, she kept her eyes cast modestly downwards during the ceremony.

Mrs Khan got the front seat, next to the wife of caretaker Prime Minister Justice (r) Nasirul Mulk and exchanged greetings with the guests. All the women guests made it a point to greet the First Lady.

The guests comprised diplomats, top beaming leadership of PTI, the three services chiefs and the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and the senior government officials.

Former Indian cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu was one of the special invitees from India at the swearing-in ceremony, besides a number of Pakistani cricket stars – including Javed Miandad, Rameez Raja, Wasim Akram, Inzimmam ul Haq, Aaqib Javed, Mushtaq Ahmed, Mohsin Hassan Khan and Mudassar Nazar.

Seated in the first row, Navjot Sidhu seemed to be one of the most sought after personalities in the crowd, as a beeline of guests continued to warmly shake hands with him and get a snap and an autograph.

Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa shook hands with all the guests in the front row. He warmly shook hands with Sidhu and the two hugged twice, a traditional Punjabi style of meeting, and exchanged pleasantries.

Singers Salman Ahmed and Ibrarul Haq, who lost election on the PTI tickets, and actor Javaid Sheikh were also among the guests, besides Vikram Singh Mehta – an old Oxford colleague of Imran Khan.

Perhaps for the first time in the history of such types of high-profile ceremonies, the guests were just offered tea and biscuits on the desire of Imran Khan, who wants simplicity and frugality to be the hallmark of his government.

Khan in his party’s manifesto had pledged to serve “as a movement to fight for a just and equitable society based on Riasat-i-Madina established by Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)”.

The enthusiastic party supporters at the event described success of Khan as nothing but a dream come true for the cricketer-turned-politician who single-handedly launched his Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) in 1996.

The PTI had managed to secure only 314,820 votes against 8,751,793 of the PML-N in the 1997 election. As a comparison, the PTI got 16,903,702 against 12,934,589 of PML-N in 2018.

As soon as Imran Khan took the oath, the social media erupted with congratulatory messages from across the world.

The British prime minister, who talked to Imran last night, in a tweet said: “Pleased to talk to @ImranKhanPTI, Prime Minister of Pakistan. The UK and Pakistan share deep and important links. There is plenty for our two countries to work together on, not least increasing bilateral trade and mutual security issues.”

Strict security measures were adopted to screen guests at the entrance. Three additional special walkthrough gates were installed to ensure swift clearance of guests at the President House.

Prime Minister Imran Khan after the oath went to the PM House where he was accorded guard of honour by a contingent of the three services. The national anthem was played, he was given a salute and he reviewed the smartly turned out contingent. Later he was given a briefing about the working of his office.