Pakistan’s embattled PM is ousted in a no-confidence motion

Pakistan's embattled PM is ousted in a no-confidence motion

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s political opposition ousted the country’s embattled prime minister in a no-confidence vote early Sunday, which they won after several of Imran Khan’s allies and a key coalition party abandoned him.

The combined opposition spanning the political spectrum from the left to radical religion will form the new government, with the head of one of the largest parties, the Pakistan Muslim League, taking over as prime minister.

Anticipating his defeat, Khan, who has accused the opposition of colluding with the United States to oust him, has called on his supporters to hold rallies across the country on Sunday. Khan’s options are limited and if he sees a large turnout in support of him, he may try to keep up the momentum of street protests as a way of pressuring Parliament to hold early elections.

Khan had earlier tried to circumvent the vote by dissolving parliament and calling a snap election, but a Supreme Court ruling ordered the vote to go ahead.

The vote comes amid a souring in relations between Khan and a powerful military that many of his political opponents say helped bring him to power in the 2018 general election. The military has directly ruled Pakistan for more than the half of his 75 years and wields considerable power over civilians. governments, who fear that a disgruntled army could overthrow them.

The opposition called for Khan’s ouster, citing economic mismanagement as inflation soars and the value of the Pakistani rupee plummets. The vote ends months of political turmoil and a constitutional crisis that required the Supreme Court to resolve.

In an impassioned speech on Friday, Khan doubled down on his accusations that his opponents colluded with the United States to topple him over his foreign policy choices, which often appeared to favor China and Russia and defied the United States.

Khan said Washington objected to his February 24 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, hours after tanks rolled into Ukraine, sparking a devastating war in the heart of Europe.

Before the vote, his lawmakers addressed Parliament to express outrage over a letter Khan said he told a senior US official, who was not named, that told top Pakistani diplomats that Washington’s relations with Pakistan they would improve if Khan were overthrown. Human rights minister Shireen Mazari said the memo named Khan and said that if he were out of power “all would be forgiven.”

She went on to ask, “Forgive for what? What is our sin?

The US State Department has denied any involvement in Pakistan’s domestic politics. Deputy State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters Friday that “there is absolutely no truth to these allegations.”

Still, 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. He said they needed to protect Pakistan’s sovereignty and oppose American dictates. .

“You have to go out to protect your own future. It is you who have to protect your democracy, your sovereignty and your independence. … This is your duty,” she said. “I will not accept an imposed government.”

Khan’s accusations of US involvement are likely to resonate with many in Pakistan, says Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center.

“Khan’s conspiracy allegations will resonate in a country where there is a tendency to attribute the worst possible motives to American politics, especially as there is a history of American meddling in Pakistani politics,” Kugelman said.

Khan’s insistence on US involvement in attempts to oust him also exploits a deep-seated mistrust among many in Pakistan about US intentions, particularly after 9/11.

Washington has often chided Pakistan for doing too little to fight Islamic militants, even as thousands of Pakistanis have died at its hands and the army has lost more than 5,000 soldiers. Pakistan has been attacked for aiding Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents and has also been asked to bring them to the peace table.

The loss of the no-confidence vote for Khan brings some unlikely partners to power.

Among them is a radically religious party that runs dozens of religious schools. Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam, or Assembly of Clerics, teaches a deeply conservative brand of Islam in its schools. Many of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the local violent Taliban in Pakistan graduated from JUI schools.

The main opposition parties, the Pakistan People’s Party, led by the son of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and the Pakistan Muslim League, have been marred by allegations of widespread corruption.

Pakistan Muslim League leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was found guilty of corruption after being named in the so-called Panama Papers. That’s a collection of leaked secret financial documents showing how some of the world’s richest hide their money and implicate a global law firm based in Panama. Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court of Pakistan from holding office. The new prime minister is expected to be Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif, after a vote for the new prime minister is held in parliament on Monday.

“This would be the first time in Pakistan’s history that a no-confidence vote succeeded in unseating a prime minister, fulfilling a constitutional process that was far from guaranteed after Khan’s attempts to derail the vote,” Elizabeth Threlkeld said. , Pakistan expert. at the US-based Stimson Center. “That, in itself, is significant and could give Pakistan something to build on in the future.”

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Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report. Follow Kathy Gannon on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Kathygannon

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