Politics

Imran Khan LOSES no-confidence vote: Pakistani MPs dramatically agree to boot PM out of office


Imran Khan has been ousted as Prime Minister of Pakistan after losing a dramatic late-night vote of no-confidence from MPs including members of his own party, as fears mount that the political crisis threatens to plunge the country into chaos.

The cricketer-turned-Islamist and his political allies earlier tried to sidestep the crunch vote by dissolving parliament and calling early elections, but Pakistan’s Supreme Court sensationally ruled that the government had behaved illegally.

Pakistan’s parliament met on Saturday to proceed with the vote following a 13-hour impasse in which Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insa party used filibustering in an attempt to slow the process.

Several of the Prime Minister’s closest allies and a key coalition party deserted him as opposition parties swooped in and agreed to oust the embattled leader.

The combined opposition that spans the political spectrum from the left to the radically religious will form the new government, with the head of one of the largest parties, the Pakistani Muslim League, taking over as prime minister.

Khan’s removal from office continues Pakistan’s ugly record with Prime Ministers, with not a single leader completing their full five-year tenure since 1947.

In an impassioned speech on Friday, the disgraced politician doubled down on his absurd claims that his opponents colluded with the United States to unseat him after visiting Putin’s Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

Khan urged his supporters to take to the streets, particularly young people who have been the backbone of his support since the former cricket star turned conservative Islamist politician came to power in 2018.

Imran Khan has been ousted as Prime Minister of Pakistan after losing a dramatic late-night no-confidence vote from his MPs

Pakistan's parliament met on Saturday to proceed with the vote following a 13-hour impasse in which Khan's Tehreek-e-Insa party used filibustering in an attempt to slow the process

Pakistan’s parliament met on Saturday to proceed with the vote following a 13-hour impasse in which Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insa party used filibustering in an attempt to slow the process

The no-confidence vote has triggered a political crisis that threatens to drag the country to the brink of chaos after weeks of uncertainty and legal challenges

The no-confidence vote has triggered a political crisis that threatens to drag the country to the brink of chaos after weeks of uncertainty and legal challenges

Bowled out: Pakistan’s cricketer-turned-PM Imran Khan loses office 

Regarded as a wily cricket captain during his international playing days, Imran Khan found himself on a sticky wicket when it came to leading Pakistan.

The 69-year-old prime minister was dismissed Sunday following a no-confidence motion in the national assembly, days after he thought he had stymied the opposition by dissolving parliament and calling an early election.

The Supreme Court ruled his action illegal Thursday, and having lost his majority in the assembly, Khan ran out of options.

Khan enjoyed genuine popular support when he became premier in 2018, but critics say he has failed to deliver on promises to revitalise the economy and improve the lives of the poor.

Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was voted in by millions who grew up watching him play cricket, where he excelled as an allrounder and captained Pakistan to World Cup victory in 1992.

The PTI overturned decades of dominance by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) – two usually feuding groups that joined forces to oust him.

Khan’s vision was for Pakistan to become a welfare state modelled on the Islamic golden age of the 7th to 14th centuries, a period of cultural, economic and scientific flourishing in the Muslim world.

But he made little headway in improving Pakistan’s financial situation, with galloping inflation, crippling debt and a feeble rupee undermining economic reform.

The security situation also deteriorated on his watch, particularly since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan last year.

The voting came after the country’s powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa met Khan, two sources said, as criticism mounted over the delay in the parliamentary process.

Lower house Speaker Asad Qaisar, a member of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, who had adjourned the house three times on Saturday, announced his resignation, heightening the drama in the chamber.

‘The country’s interests must be the priority,’ he said.

Khan enjoyed genuine popular support when he became premier in 2018, but critics say he has failed to deliver on promises to revitalise the economy and improve the lives of the poor.

His Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was voted in by millions who grew up watching him play cricket, where he excelled as an allrounder and captained Pakistan to World Cup victory in 1992.

The PTI overturned decades of dominance by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) – two usually feuding groups that joined forces to oust him.

Khan’s vision was for Pakistan to become a welfare state modelled on the Islamic golden age of the 7th to 14th centuries, a period of cultural, economic and scientific flourishing in the Muslim world.

But he made little headway in improving Pakistan’s financial situation, with galloping inflation, crippling debt and a feeble rupee undermining economic reform.

The security situation also deteriorated on his watch, particularly since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan last year.

The Oxford-educated son of a wealthy Lahore family, Khan had a reputation as a playboy until his retirement from international cricket.

For years, he busied himself with charity projects, raising millions to build a cancer hospital to honour his mother.

He tiptoed into politics and for years held the PTI’s only parliamentary seat.

But the party grew hugely during the military-led government of General Pervez Musharraf, becoming a genuine force in the 2013 elections before winning a majority five years later.

Running the country proved more difficult than sitting in opposition, however.

Double-digit inflation has driven up the cost of basic goods, and while the economy is forecast to grow four percent this year, it has been stagnant for the last three. 

Imran Khan (pictured) was removed from office after Pakistani MPs ruled they had lost confidence in their former leader

Imran Khan (pictured) was removed from office after Pakistani MPs ruled they had lost confidence in their former leader 

Mr Khan, 69, and his allies had attempted to block the motion last week by dissolving parliament and demanding a snap election. Pictured: Khan's supporters in Islamabad on Thursday

Mr Khan, 69, and his allies had attempted to block the motion last week by dissolving parliament and demanding a snap election. Pictured: Khan’s supporters in Islamabad on Thursday 

Pictured: Supporters of the Pakistani opposition parties celebrate the ruling of Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday, April 7

Plotting from the wings: Key players behind Pakistan PM’s ousting

Shehbaz Sharif:

Leader of the opposition Shehbaz Sharif

Leader of the opposition Shehbaz Sharif

The brother of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif – who has been disqualified from ever again running for office and is currently in exile in Britain – Shehbaz is the main candidate to replace Khan.

The 70-year-old is a political heavyweight in his own right, however, having served as chief minister of Punjab, the family’s power base, and now as president of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N). 

Asif Ali Zardari: 

Asif Ali Zardari

Asif Ali Zardari

Hailing from a wealthy Sindh family, Zardari, 67, was better known for his playboy lifestyle until an arranged marriage saw him wed Benazir Bhutto shortly before she became prime minister for the first time.

He took to politics with gusto, earning himself the nickname ‘Mr Ten Percent’ for the cut he allegedly took from government contracts, and was twice jailed on charges related to corruption, drug smuggling and murder – although never faced trial.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari:

Oxford-educated Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 33, is considered a progressive

Oxford-educated Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 33, is considered a progressive

Zardari is political royalty and became chairman of the PPP aged just 19 following his mother’s assassination.

The Oxford-educated 33-year-old is considered a progressive, in his mother’s image, and has frequently spoken out on the rights of women and minorities.

With more than half of Pakistan’s population aged 22 or below, Bhutto’s social media savvy is a hit with the young, although he is frequently mocked for a poor command of Urdu, the national language.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman: 

After starting political life as a firebrand Islamist hardliner, Muslim cleric Rehman has softened his public image

After starting political life as a firebrand Islamist hardliner, Muslim cleric Rehman has softened his public image

After starting political life as a firebrand Islamist hardliner, the Muslim cleric has softened his public image over the years with a flexibility that has seen him forge alliances with secular parties on the left and right of the spectrum.

With the ability to mobilise tens of thousands of madrassa students, his Jamiatul Ulema-e-Islam (F) party never musters enough support for power on its own but is usually a key player in any government.

His enmity with Khan runs deep, calling him ‘a Jew’ in reference to his former marriage to Briton Jemima Goldsmith.

Pakistan has also had to borrow heavily just to service nearly $130 billion of foreign debt.

The increasingly volatile security situation exemplified by the Taliban’s return to power across the border in mid-August has also contributed to Khan’s downfall. 

The hardline Islamists’ victory was initially seen as a victory, both for Pakistan – long accused of supporting them – as well as for a premier dubbed ‘Taliban Khan’ for his consistent advocacy of dialogue and criticism of US policy towards Kabul.

But attacks by Pakistan’s own Taliban – as well as the local Islamic State group (IS-K) and ethnic Baloch separatists – have increased despite Kabul’s assurances that Afghan soil would not be used for such purposes.

Pakistan’s army is key to political power, and some analysts say Khan lost its crucial support – claims both sides deny.

Khan’s efforts to position Pakistan as a key non-aligned regional player were been successful either.

Ties with the United States frayed, with Khan accusing Washington of working with the opposition for regime change.

Islamabad has moved closer to China, even though the important work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has slowed down.

He also moved closer to Russia, angering the West by continuing a visit to Moscow on the same day as the invasion of Ukraine.

But Khan did see some relative domestic successes.

He is credited with bringing Pakistan relatively unscathed through the Covid-19 pandemic, and a free universal health scheme he pioneered is slowly being rolled out across the country.

Khan frequently rails against Western permissiveness, sparking outrage among rights groups by repeatedly linking rape to the way women dress in a deeply patriarchal country where sexual violence is widespread.

Married three times, his current wife Bushra Bibi comes from a conservative family and wears a veil in public.

Often described as being impulsive and brash, he draws frequently on cricket analogies to describe his political battles.

‘I fight till the very last ball. I never quit whatever the result may be,’ he said in an address to the nation last week. On Sunday, he was dismissed.

The cricketer-turned-PM, 69, lost his majority in parliament last week as his opponents built their support, and he was facing the prospect of being ousted by the opposition on Sunday. 

But the deputy speaker of parliament, a member of Khan’s party, blocked the motion that the Prime Minister had widely been expected to lose, ruling it was part of a US conspiracy designed to depose him. Washington has strongly denied any involvement.

The move had thrown the nuclear-armed nation, which the military has ruled for almost half its history, into a full-blown constitutional crisis, with opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif calling the blocking of the vote ‘nothing short of high treason’.

The nation is stunned,’ Dawn newspaper said in an editorial on Thursday.

‘Even as political pundits and the media confidently predicted Mr Imran Khan’s defeat in the vote of no-confidence, he seemed unperturbed.

‘No one could have guessed that his last ploy would involve having the democratic order burnt down.’

The largely ceremonial head of state, President Arif Alvi, said on Twitter earlier this morning that Khan would stay on as prime minister in a caretaker role.

Khan wants a general election within 90 days, though the country’s electoral commission has already ruled out his possibility.

The Prime Minister says he did not act unconstitutionally, calling the move to oust him a plot orchestrated by the United States – a claim Washington denies.

Khan insists he has evidence – which he has declined to disclose publicly – of US involvement in the no-confidence motion, although local media have reported it was merely a letter from Pakistan’s ambassador following a briefing with a senior US official.

Political analysts say the military regarded Khan’s conservative, nationalist agenda favourably when he won election in 2018 but later cooled towards him over various wrangles.

The military denies involvement in civilian politics but the generals are unlikely to stand by if they thought political chaos was damaging the country or if their core interests were threatened.

Khan, who led Pakistan’s cricket team to victory in the 1992 World Cup, became Pakistan’s prime minister in 2018.

He was elected as a new, third force in Pakistan’s politics, on promises to end corruption and revitalise the economy.

However four years later many feel he has failed to deliver, with rising costs of living a common complaint made against him.

Speaking to the nation in the wake of the dissolution of parliament, Khan said: ‘I have written to the President to dissolve the assemblies. 

‘There should be elections in a democratic way. I call upon the people to Pakistan to prepare for elections.’

‘I congratulate every Pakistani on the speaker’s decision. The no-confidence motion was a foreign conspiracy against us.

‘The nation should decide who should govern them. Not the corrupt people who conspire with foreign powers. Prepare for elections. You will decide.’

Traditionally, Pakistan’s top court or its powerful military step in whenever turmoil engulfs the country’s democratically elected government.

The military has remained quiet over the latest crisis although army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa told a security summit in Islamabad over the weekend that Pakistan wants good relations with China, a major investor, and also with the United States, the country’s largest export market.

Pakistan’s run of Prime Ministers who fail to complete a five-year term continues 

No prime minister has completed a full five-year tenure in Pakistan’s 75-year history. Below is a list of whose terms in office ended prematurely: 

Liaquat Ali Khan: Pakistan’s first prime minister. Took office in August 1947. He was assassinated at a political rally on Oct. 16, 1951.

Khawaja Nazimuddin: Took office on Oct. 17, 1951. He was dismissed on April 17, 1953, by the country’s governor general.

Muhammad Ali Bogra: Took office April 17, 1953. Resigned on Aug. 11, 1955. 

Chaudhri Mohammad Ali: Took office in August 1955. Internal differences in the ruling party led to his ouster on Sept. 12, 1956. 

Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy: Took office on Sept. 12, 1956. Forced from office after differences with other power centres on Oct. 18, 1957.  

Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar: Took office in October 1957. Resigned on Dec. 16, 1957, faced with a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Malik Feroz Khan Noon: Took office Dec. 16, 1957. Dismissed due to the imposition of martial law in Pakistan on Oct. 7, 1958. 

Noorul Amin: Took office Dec. 7, 1971. Left office on Dec. 20, 1971, shortly after the secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan. 

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto: Took office on Aug. 14, 1973. He was overthrown by a military coup on July 5, 1977. 

Muhammad Khan Junejo: Took office in March 1985. He was dismissed on May 29, 1988, by the military chief who was also the president. 

Benazir Bhutto: Took office on Dec. 2, 1988. Her government was dismissed on Aug. 6, 1990, by the president, a close aid of the deceased military ruler, on charges of corruption. 

Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif: Took office Nov. 6, 1990. His government was also dismissed by the president on similar charges to Bhutto on April 18, 1993. 

Benazir Bhutto: Returned to power for her second tenure in Oct. 19, 1993. Was dismissed by the president once again on charges of misgovernance on Nov. 5, 1996. 

Nawaz Sharif: Came to power a second time on Feb. 17, 1997. Overthrown by a military coup – the third in Pakistan’s history – in Oct 1999. 

Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali: Elected prime minister during military rule in November 2002. He resigned after differences with the military on June 26, 2004. 

Yousaf Raza Gilani: Elected prime minister on March 25, 2008. He was disqualified by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2012 on charges of ‘contempt of court’ 

Nawaz Sharif: Elected prime minister for a third time on June 5, 2013. He was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on charges of concealing assets on July 28, 2017. 

Imran Khan: Elected as prime minister on Aug. 18, 2018. Voted out of power via a no-confidence motion by the opposition on April 10, 2022.

 

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), accused the government of violating the constitution by not allowing voting on the motion.

He said that the united Opposition will stage a dharna – a way of showing disagreement by refusing to leave a place – in the National Assembly.

He said: ‘Our lawyers are on their way to Supreme Court.

‘We call on all institutions to protect, uphold, defend & implement the constitution of Pakistan.’

No prime minister has completed a full five-year tenure in Pakistan’s 75-year history – a trend extended with the ouster of Imran Khan, who lost a no-confidence vote on Sunday.

Up until that point, Pakistan, a parliamentary democracy for most of its history, has had a total of 29 prime ministers since 1947 – one of whom took on the role twice in one year.

On 18 occasions, they have been removed on different pretexts, including corruption charges, direct military coups and forced resignations due to infighting in ruling groups. There was one assassination.

The remaining premiers held the position for a limited time as caretakers to oversee fresh elections or to see out a dismissed premier’s tenure.

The year 1993 was particularly fraught, with five changes in the premiership.

Kha’s successor will still be expected to grapple with the issues which saw the former cricketing hero booted from office. 

Militancy is on the rise, with Pakistan’s Taliban emboldened by the return to power last year of the hardline Islamist group in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the rupee has plummeted in value and Pakistan’s economy remains crippled by the weight of foreign debt.  

Tempers rose earlier when Sharif insisted a vote be held immediately – as ordered by the Supreme Court on Thursday – but Khan loyalists demanded discussion first on their leader’s claims there had been foreign interference in the process.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi accused the opposition of leading the country down a dangerous path.

‘History will expose all those, who set the stage for this move to topple the government,’ he said, to chants of ‘vote, vote’ from the opposition.

Khan insists he has been the victim of a ‘regime change’ conspiracy involving the United States.

He said the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) – two normally feuding dynastic groups who joined forces to oust him – had conspired with Washington to bring the no-confidence vote because of his opposition to US foreign policy, particularly in Muslim nations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

He also accused the opposition of buying support in the assembly with ‘open horse-trading… selling of lawmakers like goats and sheep’.

How long the next government lasts is also a matter of speculation.

The opposition said previously they wanted an early election – which must be called by October next year – but taking power gives them the opportunity to set their own agenda and end a string of probes they said Khan launched vindictively against them.

Local media quoted an election commission official as saying it would take them at least seven months to prepare for a national vote.

Publicly the military appears to be keeping out of the current fray, but there have been four coups since independence in 1947 and the country has spent more than three decades under army rule.



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