The story so far: After weeks of political turmoil, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was removed from office through a no-confidence vote in the early hours of April 10. No Pakistan PM has completed their full term since Independence, although the 69-year-old Mr. Khan is the first to be removed through a no-confidence vote. Earlier, two separate no-trust motions failed respectively against former Premiers Benazir Bhutto in 1989 and Shaukat Aziz in 2006.
Mr. Khan surged to power in 2018 with the military’s support but recently lost his parliamentary majority when allies quit his coalition government. He also reportedly lost the support of the powerful Army after he refused to endorse the appointment of the ISI spy agency chief last year.
Imran Khan ouster: What led to it?
The dramatic sequence of events began on March 8 when the Opposition tabled a no-confidence motion against the Imran Khan government in the National Assembly. Reason: The Opposition levelled charges of corruption and economic mismanagement against the government battling depleting foreign exchange reserves and double-digit inflation.
In response, Mr. Khan called the Opposition’s move motion against him the result of a “foreign conspiracy.” He claimed that he was not acceptable for following an independent foreign policy.
In his address to the public, the cricketer-turned-politician reiterated his allegations that a senior U.S. diplomat was involved in this conspiracy to topple his government. Taking note, Speaker Asad Qaiser summoned the National Assembly session on March 25 to deliberate whether Mr. Khan still enjoyed majority support in the House. On the day of voting on the no-confidence motion (April 3), Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, who is associated with Mr. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, dismissed the motion as he termed it to be against the Constitution and rules of Pakistan. Mr. Khan was widely expected to lose the no-confidence motion.
The crisis snowballed when President Ari Alvi dissolved the 342-member National Assembly on the advice of the Prime Minister. Prepare for elections, Mr. Khan announced.
Dubbing the move unconstitutional, the Opposition parties soon moved the Supreme Court. The SC took a suo motu cognisance of the political situation in the country and said all orders and actions initiated by the Prime Minister and the President regarding the dissolution of the National Assembly will be subject to the court’s order.
Meanwhile, a notification issued by the President on April 4 announced that Mr. Khan was to continue to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan until the appointment of a caretaker Premier.
In a major blow to Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Supreme Court on April 7 struck down the Deputy Speaker’s dismissal of the no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister and ordered the National Assembly to be restored. The SC also declared the dissolution of Parliament on the advice of the PM unconstitutional.
With the writing on the wall clear, Mr. Khan urged his supporters to stage peaceful protests across the country when the “new imported government” comes into power. “I will not accept this imported government; I will take to street…. Only people can bring me to power, and I will come back with the help of the people,” he said.
The Parliament, meanwhile, convened on Saturday (April 9) to decide the fate of the PM.
A midnight full of political drama
After multiple adjournments throughout the day, the National Assembly reconvened at 11.45 p.m. when Speaker Mr. Qaiser announced he was stepping down. He nominated Ayaz Sadiq of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz to chair the session.
The voting began just before the change of the day but Mr. Sadiq was forced to adjourn the proceeding for 2 minutes to restart after the change of the date.
Meanwhile, Mr. Khan summoned a Cabinet meeting at his house. Mr. Khan also met with a team of journalists whom he told that he would not resign and would “fight till the last ball”.
With the process of voting delayed, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court took charge. The Chief Justice reached the court along with fellow judges, apparently to take cognisance of any violation of the order of April 7.
The 13-hour session culminated with the removal of Mr. Khan in a no-confidence vote in the early hours of Sunday with 174 members in the 342-member Assembly voting in favour of the resolution. While Mr. Khan was not present in the Lower House at the time of voting, his party lawmakers staged a walkout.
Pakistan has had 29 Prime Ministers since 1947, but none who managed to complete a full five-year term. While there was one assassination, PMs have been removed on 18 occasions due to reasons ranging from corruption charges, direct military coups, to forced resignations. The remaining held the position for a limited time as caretakers to oversee fresh elections or to see out a dismissed Premier’s tenure.
The dramatic removal of Mr. Khan has once again set in motion the process to elect a new leader of Pakistan. With the joint backing of the Opposition, Shehbaz Sharif, president of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), nominated himself for the post. Mr. Sharif, the younger brother of three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is being touted as the frontrunner for the top post. Former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has been nominated by Pakistan Tehreek–e–Insaf (PTI).
The Parliament is scheduled to meet on Monday (April 11) to elect the new PM. The winner would need 172 votes to become the new Prime Minister. Parliamentary elections are due in Pakistan in 2023.
(With inputs from agencies)