Prime Minister Imran Khan ousted by no-confidence vote

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan attends a military parade in Islamabad on March 23, 2022.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was overthrown on Saturday 9 April by a vote of censure, voted against him by the National Assembly, after several weeks of political crisis. Despite two interruptions during the day, Mr Khan’s maneuver to retain power in Pakistan has failed.

The movement was: “approved” by 174 of the 342 deputies, the acting president of the chamber, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, announced. No Prime Minister has ever completed his term in Pakistan since the country’s independence in 1947, but Mr. Khan is the first to file a no-confidence vote.

He became prime minister in 2018. His successor at the head of this Islamic republic of 220 million inhabitants, equipped with nuclear weapons, should be Shehbaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N).

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Dissolution of the Unconstitutional Assembly

This vote comes as the Supreme Court dealt a bitter blow to the Pakistani prime minister on Thursday. The latter, 69 and famous for leading the national cricket team to its only World Cup victory in 1992, had attempted to escape this opposition move four days earlier by dissolving the National Assembly and calling early general elections.

The five magistrates of the country’s highest court had unanimously ruled that the plan to avert the no-confidence motion was unconstitutional and that all subsequent decisions had no legal force. The National Assembly was therefore re-establishedas well as the government.

Always popular with large segments of the population, Mr Khan is unlikely to have said his last word in view of the upcoming elections. But his record and his tendency in recent days to accentuate the rifts in Pakistani society, with virulent attacks on the opposition, which he accused “treason”could play against him.

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Imran Khan came to power in 2018 after his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), won parliamentary elections on a populist platform that combines promises of social reform, religious conservatism and the fight against corruption. Twenty-two years after his entry into politics, his tenacity was thus rewarded.

Popular choices, difficult economic times

As head of government, he first benefited from his imperishable image and the social fatigue of traditional parties, which for decades monopolized power with the army. During the Covid-19 pandemic, her choice not to impose national incarceration, which would have: “starve” people, proved popular and winning. The country was largely spared (30,000 dead).

But the economic situation and his poor choices eventually caught up with him. High inflation, the depreciation of the rupee since July and the increase in debt have weakened it. Deteriorating security, especially since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in mid-August, has also added to the problems.

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Their triumphant return was first interpreted as a victory for Pakistan, long accused of supporting them, and for the one bestowed with the nickname of “Taliban Khan” because I have always advocated a dialogue with them. But after several years of relative calm, attacks have resumed since August, notably led by Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Taliban. Imran Khan has also suffered the suspected deterioration of his ties to the military, which was accused of mixing in his favor in 2018, even though it has remained quiet in recent days.

Accused of complacency towards extremes

His efforts to position Pakistan as a key regional player have also had little effect. Ties with Washington and European countries are tense, especially under the effect of his diatribes against Islamophobia, disguised in his eyes in the West under the guise of freedom of expression. Islamabad has come even closer to China. And Imran Khan’s official visit to Moscow on the day of the outbreak of the war in Ukraine brought him much ridicule.

This son of a wealthy family in Lahore, an Oxford graduate, married three times after maintaining a reputation as a playboy throughout his sports career, has also been criticized for his complacency towards religious radicals. Married for the third time in 2018 to Bushra Bibi, from a conservative family and who wears the veil, he has fiercely defended the controversial blasphemy law.

In November, his government lifted the ban on Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), imposed in April after violent anti-French demonstrations staged by this Islamist party, which criticized French support for the right to caricatures, including the prophet Mohammed. , denounced.

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Often accused of restricting press freedom, Imran Khan has also sparked outrage from feminist organizations by repeatedly linking rape to the way women dress in a country where sexual violence is prevalent.

Le Monde and AP en

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