After winning the election, Imran Khan faces his toughest battle yet – living up to expectations 

Imran Khan has begun building a ruling coalition as Pakistan’s leader-elect faces daunting troubles ranging from doubts over his legitimacy to a looming economic crisis.

Almost three days after polling finished, the final tally of results gave Mr Khan’s party 116 of the 270 National Assembly seats on offer, putting him within easy reach of a majority.

The charismatic cricketer-turned-statesman swept to power on populist promises to build a new, fairer, Pakistan and break the stranglehold of the country’s venal, dynastic elite.

Yet when the glow of victory fades, he faces a grim to-do list likely to test the the high expectations raised in his passionate young supporters, analysts told the Telegraph.

The immediate priority is to deal with Pakistan’s economic woes.

“The greatest challenge is the economy, everyone knows that. We need a Pakistan that is self-sustaining,” Gen Talat Masud, a former general and commentator said.

The newcomer will have to move fast to avert a brewing crisis. Foreign currency reserves are quickly dwindling and the rupee has devalued four times since December.

Supporters of Imran Khan celebrate in Karachi on July 26Credit:

Mr Khan is expected to have to negotiate a bailout as early as September, most likely from the International Monetary Fund, but potentially he could also seek help from China or Saudi Arabia, said Jan Achakzai, a political commentator.

Pakistan has agreed 12 IMF loans since the late 1980s, but it could be hesitant this time because previous promised reforms have not come to pass.

“These are very important issues, that he can’t afford to wait for tomorrow,” he said.

Mr Khan also faces the task of governing a country where rival political parties reject his victory. 

Losing parties led by the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) have alleged wholesale vote rigging on election night. 

That followed a campaign widely seen as engineered in Mr Khan’s favour by the powerful military establishment which has ruled directly or indirectly for much of the nation’s existence.

Imran Khan speaks to the media after casting his vote at a polling station during the general election in Islamabad on July 25Credit:

At least one party has vowed a campaign of protests.

“The position is very jumpy at the moment,” said Mr Achakzai.

“Imran Khan needs to be calm. He needs to reach out to them and needs to engage. He’s not a party hack any more, he is the leader of the country.”

Though Mr Mr Khan is widely perceived to be the chosen candidate of the army, negotiating civil-military ties will still be difficult, said Gen Masud.

The military considers large swathes of foreign and national security policy to be its own preserve. Deciding how to resolve inevitable disagreements on subjects such as India and Afghanistan will be “a very major challenge”.

An election campaign that saw around 200 killed in bombing attacks also underlined the country’s continuing battles with militancy and terrorism.

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The former-fast bowler earned the moniker "Taliban Khan" for repeatedly arguing for peace talks with militants and for his party’s alliance with Sami ul Haq, the so-called Father of the Taliban whose madrassas once educated Taliban stalwarts Mullah Omar and Jalaluddin Haqqani.

He suggested in 2013 that the Pakistani Taliban should be allowed to open an office in the country.

Pakistan’s Taliban on Saturday refused to comment officially on Mr Khan’s victory.

A supporter of Imran Khan smokes as he sits in his vehicle decorated with party flag and images of Khan in Islamabad on July 26Credit:

But militants within the group told the Telegraph they dismissed his election.

One Taliban source said: “Yes, Imran was a supporter of talks with the Pakistani Taliban but for us there is no difference between [jailed former prime minister] Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan, and other political party leaders.

“We consider all the political leaders to be ears on the same donkey. The army will use Imran Khan according to their own wishes to fulfil their aims.”

Perhaps one of his most difficult tasks will be to maintain the faith of his supporters, many of whom have sky-high expectations of their hero. His vows to build a new, cleaner Pakistan will see him struggle against the formidable vested interests of the old Pakistan.

Mr Achakzai said: “You really need to have the prayers of the people to lead Pakistan in such a difficult time.”

Additional reporting by Saleem Mehsud in Islamabad

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