ISLAMABAD (AP) – Pakistan’s political opposition ousted the country’s prime minister in a vote of confidence early Sunday, after he was ousted by several allies of Imran Khan and a major coalition party.
The united opposition, which has spread across the political spectrum from the left to extremism, will form a new government and one of the largest parties, the Pakistan Muslim League, will take over as prime minister.
Khan has called on his supporters to hold rallies across the country on Sunday, accusing the opposition of colluding with the United States to oust him in anticipation of his loss. Khan’s options are limited, and if he sees a large turnout in his support, he could try to keep up the pace of street protests as a way to pressure parliament to hold early elections.
Khan had earlier tried to boycott the vote by dissolving parliament and calling for early elections, but the Supreme Court ruling ordered the vote to continue.
The referendum comes amid cold ties between Khan and a powerful military accusing many of his political opponents of helping him come to power in the 2018 general election. For more than half of 75 years, the military has ruled Pakistan directly and wielded considerable power over its citizens. Governments worried that the disgruntled military might fire them.
Opposition groups called for Khan’s ouster, accusing him of mismanagement, as inflation rose and the Pakistani rupee depreciated. The vote puts an end to months of political turmoil and a constitutional crisis that the Supreme Court has yet to resolve.
In a fiery speech on Friday, Khan doubled down on his accusations that his opponents had allied with the United States to oust him in his foreign policy choices, which were largely in favor of China and Russia and outweighed the United States.
Khan said Washington opposed his February 24 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin just hours after tanks rolled into Ukraine and began a devastating war in the heart of Europe.
In the run-up to the vote, his lawmakers spoke out in parliament over an outburst from a letter from Khan to an unnamed senior US official who told top Pakistani embassy officials that Washington’s relations with Pakistan would improve if Khan was fired. Human Rights Minister Shreen Mazari said in a statement labeled Khan that “everyone will be forgiven” if he leaves office.
She continued: “Forgive me for what? What sin have we committed? ”
The US State Department has denied any involvement in Pakistan’s internal politics. Deputy State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters Friday that “these allegations are not entirely true.”
However, Khan urged his supporters to take to the streets, especially the youth who have been the backbone of his support since the conservative Islamist politician who became a former cricket star came to power in 2018. He said they should defend Pakistan’s sovereignty and oppose US orders. .
“You must come out to defend your own future. You must defend your democracy, your sovereignty and your freedom … this is your duty.” I will not accept an imposed government.
Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Washington – based Wilson Center’s Asia program, says allegations of Khan’s involvement in the U.S. will resonate with many in Pakistan.
“Khan’s conspiracy allegations will resonate in a country where there is a tendency to say bad intentions to US policy, especially given the past history of US intervention in Pakistani politics,” Gugleman said.
Khan’s insistence that the United States is involved in efforts to oust him, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, exploits the deep distrust among many in Pakistan about US motives.
Washington has often condemned Pakistan for doing too little to fight Islamist militants, even though thousands of Pakistanis have died at their hands and the army has lost more than 5,000 soldiers. Pakistan was attacked for aiding the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, while at the same time being asked to bring them to the peace table.
The defeat of the no-confidence vote for Khan brings some unlikely partners to power.
Among them is a radical religious party that runs numerous religious schools. The Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam, or Confederation of Clergy, teaches the deeply conservative mark of Islam in its schools. Many of the Taliban in Afghanistan and many of Pakistan’s own domestic violence Taliban graduated from JUI schools.
The largest opposition parties – the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led by the son of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and the Pakistan Muslim League – have been tainted by widespread corruption allegations.
Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League and former prime minister, has been indicted in a corruption case known as the Panama Papers. This is a collection of leaked secret financial documents involving how some of the world’s richest people hide their money and a global law firm based in Panama. The sheriff was disqualified by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. After the vote for the new prime minister took place in parliament on Monday, the new prime minister is Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif.
“This is the first time in Pakistan’s history that a no-confidence vote has succeeded in ousting a prime minister – the implementation of an unsecured constitutional process following attempts to derail Khan’s vote,” said Pakistani expert Elizabeth Trelkelt. At The Stimpson Center, based in the United States. “That alone is important and can give Pakistan something to move forward with.”
Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report. Follow Kathy Canon on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Kathygannon