Prime Minister Imran Khan ousted by vote of no confidence

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

The motion was “approved” by 174 of the 342 deputies, announced the acting speaker of the chamber, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq. No prime minister has ever completed his term in Pakistan since the country’s independence in 1947, but Mr. Khan is the first to fall on a vote of no confidence.

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 had inflicted, Thursday, a bitter setback to the Pakistani Prime Minister. The latter, 69 and famous for leading the national cricket team to its only World Cup victory in 1992, had tried to escape this opposition motion four days earlier by dissolving the National Assembly and calling for early general elections.

The five magistrates of the country’s highest court had unanimously ruled that the scheme to prevent the vote of no confidence was unconstitutional and that all subsequent decisions were of no legal effect. The National Assembly had therefore been restored, as well as the government.

Always popular with large sections of the population, Mr. Khan has probably not said his last word in view of the upcoming elections. But his record and his propensity in recent days to accentuate the fractures of Pakistani society, with virulent attacks against the opposition, which he accused of ” 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 the legislative elections on a populist platform combining promises of social reform, religious conservatism and the fight against corruption. Twenty-two years after entering politics, his tenacity was thus rewarded.

Popular choices, difficult economic times

As head of government, he first capitalized on his incorruptible image and society’s weariness of traditional parties, which monopolized power for decades with the army. During the Covid-19 pandemic, its choice not to impose national confinement, which would have “starve to death” people, proved popular and winning. The country was largely spared (30,000 dead).

But the economic situation and his bad choices eventually caught up with him. High inflation, the depreciation of the rupee since July and the widening of the debt have weakened it. Deteriorating security, particularly since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in mid-August, has also contributed to its difficulties.

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Their triumphant return was first interpreted as a victory for Pakistan, long accused of supporting them, and for the one who has been decked out with the nickname of “Taliban Khan” for having never ceased to advocate dialogue with them. But after several years of relative calm, the attacks have resumed since August, led in particular by the Pakistani Taliban of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Imran Khan has also suffered from the probable deterioration of his ties with the army, which was accused of having interfered in his favor in 2018, even if it has remained silent in recent days.

Accused of complacency towards extremes

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

This son of a wealthy family in Lahore, a graduate of Oxford, married three times after having maintained a reputation as a playboy during 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 vehemently 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 organized by this Islamist party, which denounced France’s support for the right to caricature, including the Prophet Muhammad.

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Often accused of having restricted the space for expression of the press, Imran Khan has also aroused the indignation of feminist organizations by establishing several times a link between rape and the way women dress, in a country where sexual violence is common.

Le Monde and AP and

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