US backing regime change in Pakistan: PM Imran Khan

Published on Apr 03, 2022 04:09 AM IST

The PTI leader, who came to power in 2018 with promises to create a ‘Naya Pakistan’, is at a critical juncture of political career as he has lost majority after defections from his party.

Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan.(Reuters)
Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan.(Reuters)
Agencies | , Islamabad

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday said the move to remove him was an attempt at regime change backed by the United States. Khan is facing a vote to oust him on Sunday.

Also Read | Imran’s anti-US tirade skews the pitch for his successors

Khan told a group of foreign journalists that, “the move to oust me is (a) blatant interference in domestic politics by the United States”.

The White House has denied that the United States is seeking to remove Khan from power after he made similar accusations in the past days.

The US embassy in Islamabad did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Key allies desert Khan

Khan, who has promised to bowl an inswing yorker against opposition leaders for tabling a no-confidence motion against him, is now facing the prospect of being run out in the number game in Parliament on Sunday with key allies deserting him and a sizeable number of rebel lawmakers vowing to vote against him.

Khan, who came to power in 2018 with promises to create a ‘Naya Pakistan’, is at a critical juncture of his political career as he has lost majority after defections from his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. Two of his allied parties also withdrew their support and joined the ranks of the rejuvenated Opposition.

Also Read | 'Even if Imran Khan loses...': Pakistan interior minister on no-trust vote

More than a dozen PTI lawmakers have indicated they will cross the floor, although party leaders are trying to get the courts to prevent them from voting.

The 69-year-old cricketer-turned politician is facing the no-confidence motion, which was tabled by the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif on March 28.

The National Assembly is scheduled to vote on the no-trust motion on Sunday.

Khan needs 172 votes in the lower house of 342 to foil the opposition’s bid to topple him. However, the opposition claims it has the support of 175 lawmakers and the prime minister should immediately resign.

A defiant Khan has said that he will not resign despite losing the majority and insisted that he will “fight till the last ball” and face the vote of no-confidence in the National Assembly on Sunday. Khan has described the rebel lawmakers as “traitors” and said that they will be branded as such for the rest of their lives as he pleaded with them to come back and foil the opposition’s attempt to topple his government.

Debate on the no-confidence motion was due to start on Thursday, but the deputy speaker - from Khan’s party - suspended proceedings when legislators declined to first address other items on the agenda.

Khan, who in 1992 captained Pakistan to their only World Cup win, hinted he still had a card to play. “I have a plan for tomorrow, you should not be worried about it. I will show them and will defeat them in the assembly.”

PM calls for protests

Imran Khan called on his supporters to take to the streets on Sunday ahead of a parliamentary no-confidence vote that could see him thrown out of office.

On Saturday, Khan called on supporters to take to the streets to peacefully protest against what he said was a “conspiracy” hatched outside Pakistan to unseat him.

Also Read | Imran Khan calls for street protests ahead of no-confidence vote in Pak Assembly

“I want you all to protest for an independent and free Pakistan,” he said during a public question and answer phone-in broadcast by state media.

If Khan goes, the Pakistan Muslim League-N’s Shehbaz Sharif is tipped to become the next prime minister - but on Saturday the government moved to have him sent back to jail to await trial on money-laundering charges that have been pending since 2020.

 

The government asked a Lahore court to revoke his bail, with a decision expected on Monday.

Sharif is the younger brother of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted and jailed on corruption charges in 2017 and is currently in Britain after being released from prison two years later for medical treatment.

Bajwa backs good US ties

Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said on Saturday his country sought to expand its relationship with Washington, a day after Islamabad protested to the US embassy over alleged interference in its internal affairs. “We share a long history of excellent and strategic relationship with the United States, which remains our largest export market,” Bajwa told a security conference in Islamabad.

Also Read | Pakistan has excellent ties with US, says General Bajwa ahead of no-trust vote

Also highlighting close diplomatic and business relationships with China, Bajwa added, “We seek to expand and broaden our ties with both countries without impacting our relations with the other.”

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