ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Imran Khan, a former international cricket star turned politician who oversaw a new era of Pakistani foreign policy that has set the country apart from the United States, has been removed from his post as prime minister. early Sunday after losing a vote of no confidence in Parliament.
The vote comes amid soaring inflation and a rift between Mr Khan’s government and the military, which has led to a political crisis that has dragged the country for weeks and came to an end in a single session. Parliament session lasted in the early hours of the morning. Pakistan remains in turmoil as it enters early election season in the coming months.
Pakistan, the nuclear-armed country with the world’s second-largest Muslim population, has struggled with instability and military coups since its founding 75 years ago. While no prime minister in Pakistan has completed a full five-year term in office, Mr Khan was the first to be removed in a vote of no confidence.
The motion to remove Mr Khan passed with 174 votes, two more than the simple majority needed.
Analysts expect that lawmakers will choose opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif, a member of a Pakistani political dynasty, as interim prime minister until the next general election, possibly in October. Mr. Khan is also expected to run in that election.
Voting in Parliament began just before midnight on Saturday after a tumultuous day of political wrangling in the capital, Islamabad, as Mr Khan’s allies appeared to be trying to delay a decision – sparking concerned that the military might intervene.
Late on Saturday night, when the two political factions were at an impasse, the country’s powerful military commander-in-chief met with Mr Khan.
The Supreme Court also signaled that it would open at midnight, should the court need to intervene. Police officers and prison trucks waited outside Parliament for fear the proceedings turned violent.
At 11:45 a.m., to protest the vote of no confidence, lawmakers in Mr Khan’s political coalition stormed out of the Parliament halls.
Opposition lawmakers then conducted a vote of no confidence.
Mr Khan has repeatedly said the opposition’s moves against him are part of a US plot to oust him from power and he called on his supporters to protest on Sunday.
“Your future is at stake,” Mr Khan said in a televised address on Friday night. “If you don’t stand up for our country’s sovereignty, we will continue to depend on it.” He added: “The nation must stand together to save Pakistan.”
Mr Khan, 69, has set his sports star on a populist political career that promises to rid the country of endemic corruption and put the thriving economy back on track. and build a “new Pakistan” he describes as an Islamic welfare state.
But economic realities, including massive government debt and three straight years of double-digit inflation, thwarted his plans and undermined his popularity. Tackling corruption proves to be easier said than done. His move away from the West and closer to China and Russia is polarizing.
And, perhaps most importantly, he appears to have lost the support of the country’s powerful military in the dispute over leadership.
That paved the way for a coalition of opposition parties to make a lack of confidence movement last month. But in a great attempt to block the vote, he and his allies dissolved Congress time before it was scheduled to take place on April 3.
The The Supreme Court on Thursday declared Khan’s move violated the Constitution and it ordered a vote on Saturday.
Public criticism of his leadership from both the courts and the country’s lawmakers, including some of his allies, has cost him significant political capital and eroded the atmosphere. indomitable quality that he maintained for many years.
But in a country where ousted political leaders are expected to return in second and even third acts, Mr Khan shows no signs of backing down, and most analysts are skeptical. hope that he will run in the next elections.
Ayesha Siddiqa, a political analyst at SOAS University London, said: “I don’t think Imran is outside of Pakistani politics. “He was in a better position, he was completely out of focus on inflation, from the economy, to the question of foreign conspiracy, and it was working in his favor. ”
Born into a wealthy Lahore family, Mr Khan first emerged in the late 1970s as an international cricket star, becoming the face of the sport at a time when the cricketers from the former British Empire began to regularly beat their former colonists. Mr Khan helped lead Pakistan to the 1992 Cricket World Cup – the country’s greatest sporting achievement.
Cricket success and upper-class upbringing have earned him a life of privilege and glamour. Throughout the 1980s, Mr. Khan was a regular in the fashion crowd in London, and he gained a reputation as a playboy.
In 1996 he turned to politics, founding his own party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which branded himself a reformer and promised an alternative to Pakistan’s entrenched political dynasties.
Despite his popularity and mass appeal, he struggled to make political inroads for more than a decade. He is mocked for his political ambitions and blatant contradictions between his lavish lifestyle and his efforts to improve his brand as a devout Muslim who sympathizes with the poor and rejects his peers. speak his English.
But by 2011, Mr Khan seemed to have found his political footing. His protests began to attract hundreds of thousands of urban middle-class Pakistanis and educated youth, who felt discontent with the system and were energized by an anti-corruption message. , populist and his criticism of the United States.
In 2018, he was Prime Minister is elected – a victory that many of his opponents attributed to a defensive agreement with the army. Politicians with other parties are depicted a campaign of coercion and intimidation by security forces effectively narrowed the electoral field and sent a message that opposition to Mr Khan was strongly opposed. Military officials have denied those allegations, as have Mr Khan and his aides.
But analysts say he has also over-promised, advocating incoherent, often contradictory policies: He favors a free, deregulated market economy but also favors a happy state. profit. He openly opposes Islamic war but his government and military establishment have provided a safe haven for the Taliban in northwest Pakistan.
In a desperate attempt to stabilize the economy, he turned to the International Monetary Fund to 6 billion dollar rescue package in 2019, a move widely seen as a betrayal of his campaign promise to never borrow and give foreign aid.
As criticism of his leadership grew, Mr Khan’s government led a growing crackdown on dissidents. Opposition parties have criticized his anti-corruption action as one-sided, accusing him of hunting down rivals for revenge while turning a blind eye to accusations surrounding cabinet members and close friends of his grandfather. However, unlike many of his predecessors, he himself has not been accused of corruption.
In particular, human rights groups have criticized his government for suppressing the media. Several leading journalists known to have criticized Mr. Khan lost their jobs; others were threatened, detained and threatened in organized social media campaigns, based on Human Rights Watch.
However, his supporters still defend his record, which includes deducting government subsidies, building shelters and kitchens for the poor, and providing health care for the poor. middle and low income households.
During his tenure, Pakistan has weathered the coronavirus pandemic relatively well, spared the devastation seen in some other parts of the world despite initial problems with the care system. health is overloaded and not fully provided. Khan attributes the success to a well-coordinated national effort, fueled by help from the military.
But his foreign policy decisions have become a point of contention.
Seeking more independence from the West, he withdrew from the so-called war on terror. Last June, he said Pakistan would “Absolutely not” allows the CIA use bases inside Pakistan for counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. After the Taliban took power in Afghanistan last year, even before US troops and officials completely withdrew from the country, he praised the Afghans for having “break the shackles of slavery. ”
But the fatal blow to his leadership came last year after Pakistan’s military leaders appeared to withdraw their support, undermining the political stability he has enjoyed for the most part. its tenure.
In recent months, the military establishment has loosened its grip on opposition parties, according to the analysis, paving the way for a no-confidence movement. Days before the vote was scheduled for last Sunday, Mr Khan appears to have lost his majority in Parliament and is facing demands to step down.
But he remained defiant, accusing his opponents of being pawns in a US-led plot to remove him, and claiming that the joint communiqué of a former Pakistani ambassador to the US contained evidence of a conspiracy. He called on Pakistanis to stand up to “the forces of evil” and urged them to stand up to his opponent, who he called “the slaves of America.”
Shehbaz Sharif is expected to take over as interim prime minister until the next general election. Mr. Sharif is the younger brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the former chief minister of Punjab, the most populous and prosperous province in the country.
The interim government he is expected to lead will inherit significant challenges, from soaring inflation to an increasingly polarizing political climate that could lead to unrest in the streets.
“This crisis has created serious problems for Pakistan, with regard to its economy, political polarization and policy,” said Ijaz Khan, former dean of the department of international relations at the University of Peshawar. our foreign affairs. “Leading the country out of that situation will be a serious challenge for any future government.”