Wrath of Khan: The fall of Pakistan's prime minister

Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan was expelled as the country's head of state after a vote of no confidence due to economic mismanagement regarding inflation and bungling Pakistan's foreign policy.  The vote in the parliamentary session was held on Sunday as opposition parties whipped 174 votes in the 342-member house and secured a majority in the 13-hour session.

Pakistan's Supreme Court ruled unanimously that blocking a vote of no confidence is unconstitutional.  The Supreme Court also rejected Khan's motion to suspend Parliament and call for early elections.  Parliamentary elections will not be submitted until August 2023, but Khan's political opposition wants legislation passed guaranteeing fair elections.  According to Pakistani security personnel, Khan threatened to impose martial law by using the military to take control of the government.  

General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistani army chief of staff, met with Khan hours before the vote and forced him to accept his fate.  The Pakistani Army released a statement firmly denying any involvement in a military takeover or dissolution of the National Assembly.  After the vote, Khan released a public statement to remove, citing himself as the victim of a "foreign conspiracy" to disrupt his government, referencing the U.S.  Khan called for protests nationwide to stand up against the alleged foreign involvement.  The U.S. State Department released a statement saying, "We are closely following developments in Pakistan.  We respect and support Pakistan's constitutional process and the rule of law, but when it comes to those allegations, there is no truth to them."

Khan led his four-year reign as prime minister in an anti-American direction, in particular blaming the U.S. for the crisis in Afghanistan.  In June, he criticized Pakistan for helping the "war on terror" and deemed it the "darkest period of our history."  President Biden and Khan have not spoken to each other since Biden took office.  Khan's leadership built diplomatic relations with China, the U.S.'s main rival, as the Chinese invested deeply in Pakistan's infrastructure.  Khan refused to criticize Russia's invasion of Ukraine.  However, during a state visit, Khan met with Vladimir Putin the day Russia began its assault.  This sparked initial calls for Khan's removal.

Khan's domestic agenda continued his downturn as his approval rating suffered.  A Gallup poll found that two-thirds said inflation was the biggest problem, while 21% cited unemployment.  Ahsan Iqbal, who served as interior minister for the PML-N government under Khan, stated that "he took wrong decisions, especially how he devalued the rupee and increased policy rates.  Those two decisions were the principal causes of the economic mess we find ourselves in today."  Khan's image has become so damaged that his predecessor, Shahid Khaqan, was quoted saying, "I've put my mind to trying to find something positive to say about his four years, and it's a sad day for our country that I really can't think of anything,"

On Monday, Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif was declared the new Prime Minister of Pakistan.  Sharif is the brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the only person contending to succeed Khan.  However, Sharif will not have an easy transition as Pakistan faces economic stagnation and political turmoil.  Khan remains unwilling to accommodate Sharif and told reporters, "There can't be any bigger insult to this country."

The military has ruled Pakistan for most of its 75-year history.  Since Pakistan won its independence in 1947, no prime minister has completed a full term in office.  Imar Khan rose to fame due to his family's political connections and his stint as a world-famous cricket player.  He now leaves public life as a disgraced former prime minister.

Image: World Economic Forum via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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