Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan ousted in no-confidence vote

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A shopkeeper tunes a television screen to watch the speech of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, at his shop in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 31, 2022. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

SLAMABAD, April 10 (Reuters) – Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted on Sunday when he lost a vote of confidence in parliament, after being deserted by coalition partners who blame him for a crumbling economy and failure to deliver on his campaign promises.

The result of the vote, the culmination of a 13-hour session that included repeated delays, was announced just before 0100 (2000 GMT on Saturday) by the presiding speaker of parliament’s lower house, Ayaz Sadiq.

Khan, 69 was ousted after 3-1/2 years as the leader of the nuclear-armed country of 220 million where the military has ruled for nearly half its nearly 75-year history.

The late-night vote followed multiple adjournments in the chamber, called due to lengthy speeches by member’s of Khan’s party, who said there was a U.S. conspiracy to oust the cricket star-turned-politician.

Opposition parties were able to secure 174 votes in the 342-member house in support of the no-confidence motion, Sadiq said, making it a majority vote.

“Consequently the motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan has been passed,” he said to the thumping of desks.

There were just a few legislators of Khan’s ruling party present for the vote.

The house voted after the country’s powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa met Khan, said two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, as criticism mounted over the delay in the parliamentary process.

Parliament will meet on Monday to elect a new prime minister.

Opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif, the front-runner to lead Pakistan, said Khan’s ouster was the chance for a new beginning.

“A new dawn has started… This alliance will rebuild Pakistan,” Sharif, 70, said in parliament.

Sharif, the younger brother of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, has a reputation as an effective administrator.

Elections are not due until August 2023. However, the opposition has said it wants early elections, but only after it delivered a political defeat to Khan and passes legislation it says is required to ensure the next polls are free and fair.

Khan surged to power in 2018 with the military’s support, but recently lost his parliamentary majority when allies quit his coalition government. There were also signs he had lost the military’s support, analysts said.

Opposition parties say he 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.

His ouster extends Pakistan’s unenviable record for political instability: has completed their full term since independence from Britain in 1947, although Khan is the first to be removed through a no-confidence vote.

Khan’s allies blocked the no-confidence motion last week and dissolved parliament’s lower house, prompting the country’s Supreme Court to intervene and allow the vote to go through.

Khan earlier accused the United States of backing moves to oust him because he had visited Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin just after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Washington rejected the charge.

Muhammad Ali Khan, a legislator from Khan’s party, said the prime minister had fought till the end and would return to lead parliament in the future.