PM Imran Khan loses no-trust vote, ousted from power in Pakistan

Acting speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said 174 lawmakers had voted in favour of the motion, "consequently the vote of no confidence has passed".
Outgoing Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.(HT file)
Outgoing Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.(HT file)
Updated on Apr 10, 2022 01:45 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government in Pakistan on Saturday midnight was ousted from power after he failed the no-confidence motion moved against him by the opposition, after a day-long political drama. As many as 174 members recorded their votes in favour of the resolution. Pakistan's parliament had begun voting on a no-confidence motion against Khan, ending a 13-hour impasse over the vote he was expected to lose.

No prime mister has ever served a full term in Pakistan, but Khan is the first to lose office through a vote of no confidence. It was not immediately clear when the assembly will choose a new premier but, opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif was almost certain to be picked to lead the nuclear-armed nation of 220 million people after weeks of high political drama.

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's allies blocked the no-confidence motion last week and dissolved the lower house of parliament, prompting the country's Supreme Court to intervene and allow the vote to go through. The prime minister's supporters claim there is a foreign conspiracy to oust him.

Khan, 69, surged to power in 2018 with the military's support, but recently lost his parliamentary majority when allies quit his coalition government.

Opposition parties alleged that Khan has failed to revive an economy battered by Covid-19 or fulfil promises to make Pakistan a corruption-free, prosperous nation respected on the world stage.

The cricket star-turned-politician had vowed to "struggle" against any move to replace him.

The editor-in-chief of the Friday Times Najam Sethi said Khan seemed bent on defying the orders of the Supreme Court.

"That means he is either on a politically suicidal path or is being egged on to continue resistance in the expectation of last-minute support/intervention from elements in the Miltablishment," he said, referring to the military.

Before Saturday's session was adjourned, opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif, expected to become prime minister if Khan is ousted, urged lower house Speaker Qaiser to ensure the vote was carried out as a matter of priority.

The speaker said he would implement the court order "in true letter and spirit".

The opposition and some analysts said Khan has fallen out with the military, a charge he and the military denied. The army has ruled the state for half its 75-year post-colonial history, and no prime minister has completed a full five-year term.

Khan, who enjoyed widespread popular support when he took office, said late on Friday he was disappointed with the top court ruling but accepted it. But he said he would not recognise any opposition government that replaced him.

"I will not accept an imported government," he told the nation in a late-night address, suggesting the move to oust him was part of a foreign conspiracy and calling for peaceful protests on Sunday. "I'm ready for a struggle."

Khan has accused the United States of supporting a plot to oust him, without offering evidence of his claim, which Washington has dismissed. He opposed the U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan and has developed relations with Russia since becoming prime minister.

What happens next?

Parliament can continue to function until its five-year tenure ends in August 2023, after which a general election is due within 60 days.

There will be a vote in the National Assembly to elect a new prime minister to serve until then. Candidates can be put forward by any party with legislators in the assembly.

The new prime minister can, however, call a general election immediately, without waiting until 2023.

Some constitutional analysts say the assembly can be dissolved and a general election held if no candidate can secure a majority of votes to become the prime minister.

(With inputs from agencies)

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