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

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted on Sunday after losing a vote of confidence in parliament after he was deserted by coalition partners who blamed him for a downturn in the economy and failure to deliver on his election promises.

House Speaker Ayaz Sadiq announced the result of the vote, which was the culmination of a 13-hour session that included repeated delays, just before 0100 (2000 GMT on Saturday).

Khan, 69, was ousted after 3-1/2 years as head of the nuclear-armed nation of 220 million people, where the military has ruled for nearly half of its 75-year history.

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Parliament is scheduled to meet on Monday to elect a new prime minister.

Sunday’s vote came after multiple adjournment sessions in the hall, prompted by lengthy speeches by members of Khan’s party, who said there was a US plot to oust the cricket star-turned-politician.

Sadiq said opposition parties managed to get 174 votes in the 342-member House of Representatives to support the no-confidence motion, making it a majority vote.

“As a result, the motion was passed against Prime Minister Imran Khan,” he told the tables in the hall. Khan, who did not attend the vote, had no immediate comment.

A few lawmakers from Khan’s ruling party – Tehreek-e Insaf, or Pakistan Movement for Justice – were present for the vote.

Two sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the House of Representatives voted after the country’s powerful army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, met with Khan, as criticism mounted over the delay in the parliamentary process.

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Shahbaz Sharif, the frontrunner for Pakistan’s next prime minister, said Khan’s ouster was an opportunity for a fresh start.

“A new dawn has begun… This alliance will rebuild Pakistan,” Sharif, 70, said in parliament.

Sharif, the younger brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has a reputation as an efficient administrative officer. Read more

Parliamentary elections are not scheduled until August 2023. However, the opposition has said it wants early elections, but only after it has delivered a political defeat to Khan and passed legislation it says is necessary to ensure the upcoming elections are free and fair.

Khan’s ouster expands Pakistan’s unenviable record of political instability: no prime minister has completed his full term since independence from Britain in 1947, although Khan is the first to be removed by a vote of no confidence. (graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/3JsJaU2)

He rose to power in 2018 with the support of the military, but recently lost his parliamentary majority when allies withdrew from Khan’s coalition government. Analysts said there were also indications that he had lost the support of the military.

Military summons in Khan

Khan and his conservative agenda were viewed favorably by the military when he won the elections, but that support waned after a row over the appointment of the country’s next intelligence chief and economic problems.

“They (the army) do not want to be seen as supporting it and blamed for its failures,” opposition leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told Reuters earlier. “They withdrew their support.”

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Opposition parties say he has failed to revive the economy hit by COVID-19 or deliver on his promises to make Pakistan a corruption-free and prosperous country that is respected on the world stage.

It’s a shameful end to Khan’s tenure, said Rima Omar, South Asia legal advisor to the International Commission of Jurists. “3.5 years have been marked by incompetence, heavy censorship, assaults on independent judges, political persecution, bitter polarization and division and, finally, brazen subversion of the Constitution,” she wrote on Twitter.

Khan’s allies blocked the no-confidence motion last week and dissolved the lower house of parliament, prompting the country’s Supreme Court to step in and let the vote pass.

Khan earlier accused the United States of supporting moves to oust him because he visited Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Washington rejected the accusation.

Khan’s party MP, Muhammad Ali Khan, said the prime minister had fought to the end and would return to lead parliament in the future.

Prime Minister Khan has been hostile to the United States throughout his tenure, welcoming the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last year and urging the international community to work with them.

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(Covering) by Asif Shehzad, Syed Reza Hasan and Gibran Nayyar Bashimam in Islamabad; Writing by Sanjeev Migliani; Editing by William Mallard, Jean Harvey and Jonathan Otis

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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