Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has been ousted in a no-confidence vote

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan cast his ballot from office early Sunday morning after a long and tumultuous day of repeated “no-confidence” vote in parliament.

Khan made one last attempt to cling to power, producing a document proving that US officials had conspired against him along with his legislative opponents. But the referendum was finally held as a tense night-time clash erupted and police and paramilitary forces surrounded the capital. In the end, 174 members voted to remove Khan, two more than needed.

An attractive politician and former jet-setting cricket star, Khan, 69, came to power in 2018, inspiring voters with his anti-establishment rhetoric and vision of building a state of opportunity, justice and Islamic welfare and building a “new Pakistan”. Freedom for nuclear power and a Muslim-majority country of 220 million people.

But in recent months, he has struggled to control widespread inflation, foreign debt and other economic woes. Despite the disintegration of many of the reforms and civic programs he had promised, he retained loyal followers, especially among young Pakistanis. But he also created political opponents, rejected the advice of military leaders and lost allies to the opposition, which slowly gathered enough support to challenge his eligibility for office.

When his luster faded, Khan launched an intense campaign to restore it. He held massive rallies and delivered speeches on nationalist and religious themes, even expressing his effort as a fight between good and evil. And when his opponents appeared to have received enough votes to remove him, Khan dissolved the legislature on April 3 and arranged for the abrupt cancellation of the vote on the basis of an illegal foreign conspiracy.

Outraged opposition leaders rushed to the Supreme Court, which ruled that Khan’s actions were unconstitutional and illegal and should be quashed. For the next four days, Pakistan’s democratic system hung in the balance, while the court held hearings throughout the day and the nation eagerly awaited that it would function.

On Thursday, the judges unanimously ruled that Khan’s maneuvers were illegal and that a referendum should be held. Khan, in a speech to the nation on Friday, said he would accept the decision. While implicitly admitting that he would fail, Khan called on his supporters to come out in a “peaceful struggle” and promised to seek re-election.

But a day later, the troubled prime minister decided to defy the court ruling, set up an institutional conflict and resist the urge to oust him.

Opposition leader Shebaz Sharif has called for a referendum on the issue, which is set to begin on Saturday morning. “Today, parliament will write history and defeat the elected prime minister constitutionally,” he declared.

Instead, pro-government members delivered lengthy, provocative speeches in an attempt to delay the vote. Repeated breaks were called, followed by a long evening pause to break the Ramadan fast. Meanwhile, Khan spoke at a charity event and held a closed-door cabinet meeting.

He later told several local journalists that “we will not accept a new government coming from outside” and plans to show the “foreign conspiracy” document to Supreme Court judges and other officials.

Until then, Khan had refused to disclose the document, but described it as a personal diplomatic message to the then Pakistani ambassador to Washington, who said a U.S. official had threatened his government during a meeting in early March. A U.S. State Department spokesman said Khan’s allegations were “not true.”

Pakistani news outlets reported that the Supreme Court would open at midnight to deal with the crisis as tensions escalated in the dark capital. The Central Intelligence Agency issued a high alert at all airports and said no officer could leave the country without permission. The Speaker of the National Assembly then announced his resignation in favor of Khan after seeing the confidential document.

This paved the way for another official to lead the referendum. The count began just before midnight, and at 1:30 a.m., the confused prime minister was removed from office.

“This is a new day for our country,” said Sharif, the leader of the opposition in the Legislative Assembly, who is expected to become caretaker Prime Minister until the autumn elections. “Now we will transform Pakistan back into a country based on law and constitution.”

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the leader of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party, stood amid a sea of ​​cheers and applause from lawmakers with a wide smile on his face. “My message to Pakistani youth is, never give up on your dreams. Nothing is possible, “he said.” Come back to old Pakistan. “

Khan’s dismissal, which ended 18 months earlier, came as a shock to an ambitious politician who suddenly joined the failed ranks of Pakistan’s previous prime ministers – all of whom were ousted before the end of their term. But in a way, many Pakistani observers have said it is a positive move for Pakistan’s weak democracy.

For the first time since the nation’s founded in 1947, it has not reduced the term of the Prime Minister by a military coup or other form of illegal intervention. This was a legitimate referendum, approved by the judiciary, and widely appreciated for its careful legal judgment.

Pakistan’s daily Dawn newspaper, in its editorial on Friday, said the court’s action had defeated “a vicious attack on the country’s democratic order.” It said Khan’s stubborn refusal to resign “made a mockery of Pakistan’s overall democracy” and hoped the court ruling would “pull the country back from the brink of collapse”.

In his televised speech on Friday night, Khan denounced Pakistan’s political system as an “evil” process, where votes were “bought and sold”, saying it was “worse than a banana republic”. He reiterated the explosive allegations that his opponents were plotting with the US government, despite a long history of shared security concerns between the two countries, which he has often criticized, which began in the Cold War and was revived after the September 11 attacks. , 2001

After taking office, Khan converted Pakistan’s allegiance to China and shocked some of his policies and public gestures in Washington. He refused to run US bases, welcomed the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last year and traveled to Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin ahead of the occupation of Ukraine.

“I will never accept an imported government, I will take to the streets,” Khan vowed in his speech, describing himself as a fighter who fought for Pakistan’s rights and independence. “I came with people. I would go out with people.”

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