Political crisis in Pakistan: Imran Khan ousted, paving the way for a change of power

Pakistani lawmakers ousted Imran Khan from the post of Prime Minister in a no-confidence vote, ending his four-year run at the helm after battling the country’s mighty military and Asia’s second-fastest inflation eroded support.

A united opposition bloc rallied 174 lawmakers to vote against Khan after midnight in Islamabad, two more than needed to impeach him. Parliament will meet again on Monday to choose a new prime minister, who will almost certainly be opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif.

“A new morning is beginning, a new day is about to begin,” Sharif told lawmakers after the results were announced in the early hours of Sunday. “The prayers of millions of Pakistanis have been heard.”

The political reshuffle in the world’s fifth most populous nation is likely to immediately rebalance Pakistan’s foreign policy more towards the United States and Europe. Khan had brought Pakistan closer to Russia and China and sought to sabotage the no-confidence vote by claiming the Biden administration had conspired with the opposition to remove him from power.

A Sharif-led government is also likely to help secure about $3 billion remaining from an International Monetary Fund loan needed to bolster foreign reserves and the currency. The rupee is trading near a record high against the US dollar and foreign exchange reserves have fallen to the lowest in about two years, enough to cover a few months of imports. The central bank surprised analysts last week with the biggest rate hike since 1996.

Prior to his ousting, Khan called on his supporters to demonstrate peacefully after evening prayers on Sunday. A national vote is due to take place by August 2023, and Khan is already pressuring the opposition to go to the polls.

Khan’s loss came after a fallout with the Pakistani military over a range of issues, including interference in military promotions, his rocky relationship with the United States and the running of the economy. Pakistan’s military has ruled the country for nearly half of its 75-year history, and no prime minister has completed a full term during that time.

Lawmakers and supporters of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan chant slogans outside the National Assembly in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, April 10, 2022. Photo: Bloomberg

Khan did not leave quietly. Last weekend, his party shocked Pakistan when one of its allies overturned a no-confidence vote over allegations of foreign interference, after which Khan promptly called an election. The Pakistani opposition called the move a betrayal, as the constitution does not allow parliament to be dissolved in a no-confidence debate.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court later rejected Khan’s justification to overturn the vote and ordered the vote of no confidence on Saturday. During the parliamentary session, Khan’s party triggered multiple adjournments by repeating claims without showing proof that the United States wanted to oust his government – an allegation the Biden administration has denied.

When the vote finally took place, opposition lawmakers cheered and cheered as the figures were announced. TV channels showed flags of opposition parties waving in the street and fireworks and gunshots ringing out in Karachi and Islamabad.

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