Yesterday Imran Khan was ousted as prime minister of Pakistan in a no-confidence vote. I would guess that very few Americans have ever heard of Khan and only slightly more could point to Pakistan on a map or name the capital. Yet, it's a nuclear power with the fifth most people in the world-- 220,892,340-- far more than Russia and in fact, more than Germany, the U.K. and France combined. In some ways the charismatic Khan is something like Trump, a nationalist and populist who panders to religionists, became a social media star and worked to deregulate business, but, for all his flaws, he's far better than Trump in every conceivable way. He graduated from Oxford, lead Pakistan's national cricket team to the 1992 Cricket World Cup-- Pakistan's first and only cricket championship-- and became chancellor of the University of Bradford for 9 years. Like Trump, he raised millions for cancer patients. Unlike Trump, he didn't steal the money. Like Trump, he vowed to clean out the swamp; unlike Trump he actually worked on it and had some real success with the project, making him a lot of wealthy, powerful enemies.
Khan's party-- with the squirrelly but decisive backing of the establishment (meaning the military and the intelligence services)-- won the most seats in the National Assembly in 2018 and he became prime minister and did a better job than not just Trump but than any of his country's earlier prime ministers, none of whom had ever completed a full 5 year term.
The whole drama around his ouster, as you can probably guess, was very messy and he kept accusing the U.S. of being behind it, because of his friendliness towards Putin despite the Ukraine invasion. The Guardian reported that after the supreme court found that he had broken the law by dissolving parliament in an attempt to prevent a no-confidence vote it was just a matter of time before he would be deposed.
On the court’s instructions, the vote finally took place on late Saturday night, though not before Khan’s party spent a 14 tumultuous hours trying to delay and block it in the national assembly.
The opposition accused Khan of trying to hold the constitution and government “hostage” and of treason after his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, attempted various means, including filibustering and legal petitions, to try to stop the vote.
The opposition stated that Khan was refusing to let the vote go ahead unless he could secure a guarantee that neither he nor his cabinet ministers would face criminal cases once they stepped down. During his time in power, Khan had jailed several opposition party figures.
As Khan took meetings with ministers and senior military figures on Saturday, many feared that he would try to get Pakistan’s powerful army to step in and declare martial law rather than hand over power to the opposition, returning Pakistan to its past dark days of military interventions in times of political instability. Fears of unrest swirled and security was beefed up around the prime minister’s residence.
As concerns over Khan violating the supreme court ruling mounted, the chief justice took the unprecedented step of asking the supreme court to be ready to open its doors at midnight, should the vote not happen. The Islamabad high court also prepared itself to hear a late-night contempt of court case.
With just 10 minutes to go before midnight, the legal deadline for the vote, the house speaker Asad Qaiser, an ally of Khan whose role it was to put forward the no-confidence vote in parliament, resigned from his post, saying he could not take part in a foreign conspiracy to oust the PM.
Instead, the speaker role was passed to another MP and, in the final moments of Saturday, after reported pressure from the military on Khan to either resign or face the vote of no confidence, Khan finally agreed to have his premiership put to parliament, though left the parliament chamber as the vote took place.
As expected, without a majority, he lost the no-confidence vote by 174 votes, thereby removing him from power over a year before his term officially ended and making him the first Pakistan prime minister to be ousted on a no-confidence vote. Fawad Hussain, Khan’s minister for information, called it a “sad day for Pakistan. The return of looters and a good man sent home.”
Khan’s loss leads the way for a new opposition coalition government, with the leader of the opposition, Shahbaz Sharif, the brother of the jailed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, as interim prime minister. The opposition has stated its intention to hold elections in the next few months, though they are likely to be October at the earliest.
Sharif, who will be sworn in as the next prime minister in coming days, told the Guardian that the opposition had no intention of taking “revenge” on Khan and “no intention to pursue the politics of hate and divisiveness. Pakistan needs healing and should look forward.”
...[Khan] called for his supporters to take to the streets in mass protest and said he would not accept any “imported” government, a veiled reference to his previous allegations that the political opposition had conspired with western powers to topple him, a charge they deny.
“What is happening with our democracy is catastrophic,” Khan said in his speech. Khan, once a national cricketing hero and international playboy, was elected in 2018 as the “modern” face of Pakistan, who had the backing of the military and promised economic prosperity and an end to corruption.
But his time in office has been blighted by economic crisis, including record inflation. He had also been seen to pander to militant Islamic groups, and during his time in office religious violence and public lynchings of those accused of blasphemy were on the rise.
Nonetheless Khan still commands fierce among his supporters and is expected to contest the next elections, though this time without the tacit backing of the military establishment.
In a Twitter post after the supreme court ruling, Khan wrote: “My message to our nation is I have always and will continue to fight for Pak till the last ball.”