A moment of crisis for Imran and his party

Pakistan’s prime minister faces his biggest political challenge as the opposition tries to oust him amid economic woes and a rebellion within the PTI

Pakistan’s prime minister faces his biggest political challenge as the opposition tries to oust him amid economic woes and a rebellion within the PTI

Spring is the season of renewal, but in Pakistan spring usually brings political intrigue. This year’s season of political intrigue neared its climax on Friday when the National Assembly convened as the ongoing war of words hit a new low between Pakistan’s Prime Minister’s Tehreek-e-Insaf- (PTI) government Minister Imran Khan and the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) included Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. Both sides have liberally referred to themselves as the “big rodents” found in the underbelly of urban spaces. It has been said that only God could prevent Mr Khan from being ousted as the opposition are set to hold the final stage of talks on a no-confidence motion, accusing the PM of mismanaging the country, the economy and foreign policy. Several MPs from the Prime Minister’s party have also spoken out against him.

The battle in parliament is due to begin on March 28, Monday, when the National Assembly is due to reconvene.

The spring of intrigue in 2022 is also a bit of a revenge of the Pakistani opposition on Mr Khan. In February 2012, Mr Khan launched a movement accusing the government of Yousef Raza Gilani and Asif Ali Zardari of corruption. He had claimed that Pakistan’s rulers had no answers to his questions about how they amassed wealth. Mr. Khan and the PTI have unleashed a storm on a Swiss bank account with $60 million believed to belong to Mr. Zardari.

The PTI was established by Mr. Khan in 1996 amid a decade marked by terrorism and urban violence in South Asia. But until 2012, he remained a fringe player as bigger stars like Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto dominated the Democratic landscape. The political opportunity finally emerged at the end of the reign of General Pervez Musharraf. General Musharraf had reached out to exiled former Prime Minister Sharif and Bhutto. Following an agreement, General Musharraf introduced the National Reconciliation Order (NRO) under which corruption cases against the two were placed out of the scope of investigation.

In 2007, Bhutto was assassinated by mystery killers who have remained unidentified to this day, but the political order that followed was shaped by Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif. In 2012, Mr Khan, with the intervention of controversial Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, was able to challenge the premises of the NRO and the post-Musharraf political consensus that suited both major political parties. Mr Khan’s PTI launched the “Naya Pakistan” campaign in 2013, which eventually catapulted him to power in 2018.

vote of no confidence

The PDM and PML-N had consistently claimed that the election was rigged by the military establishment in favor of Mr Khan as they wanted to take control through a technocratic proxy. There have long been rumors that the security establishment which is the real actor in Pakistan’s democracy tried to reach out to Mr Sharif during his time in prison following his arrest in July 2018, but the former Prime minister refused to play under the military regime. delivered.

Mr Sharif, who is currently abroad, has entrusted the task of mobilizing supporters to his feisty daughter Maryam, who has toured the country to harvest public anger over economic hardship, unemployment and the high inflation. Pakistan, according to the World Bank, is among the 10 countries with the largest stocks of external debt. The Pakistani economy remains largely dependent on external financing as it has failed to revive its productive sectors. As discontent grew, the Pakistan Embassy in Serbia’s Twitter account dropped the chat last December when a disgruntled official questioned how long officials should remain silent despite not having not been paid for three months. Islamabad later clarified that the handle was hacked. However, the tweet sent word across the world that Pakistan’s economy had reached a crisis point, with even government workers going unpaid for months.

Mr. Khan had promised to rid Pakistan of the corruption that had tainted its experience of democracy. As his government failed to provide a stable solution to Pakistan’s economic problems, his government’s focus remained on high-tension policy on “old Pakistan”. However, more and more allegations suggested that Mr Khan had turned out to be the opposite of what he had promised. He was expected to provide rational technocratic leadership in an Orthodox society, but his ex-wife Meham Khan claimed he believed in black magic and enjoyed exotic massages to ward off the evil eye. There are also rumors of corruption implicating his relatives.

As the motion of no confidence was tabled in the National Assembly on March 8 by the opposition parties, Mr. Khan tried to project it as a foreign plot. He alleged that the opposition criticized him for denying a military base to the United States which wanted to gain a foothold in Pakistan after leaving Afghanistan in August 2021. Mr Khan has long been critical of US actions in neighboring Afghanistan and he had criticized the management of the United States by the Musharraf and Sharif governments of the past.

His non-alignment type diplomatic style eventually led him to Moscow where he was greeted by President Vladimir Putin on February 24, the day Russia launched the attack on Ukraine. In Russia, Mr Khan received an assurance of a possible energy collaboration between the two parties, which further angered his opponents who interpreted it as a decision by an increasingly unpopular leader trying to impress his already voters. disappointed. In the same style, he praised the Indian Army for staying out of politics and commended India for its independent foreign policy. But these were also interpreted by the opposition as the bets of a prime minister in distress.

After the president adjourned the NA on Friday, reports said Mr Khan met with army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and urged military leaders to check the political opposition as he decided to move forward the date of the elections in October. Mr Khan is said to make the announcement on the issue on Sunday, in what is expected to be a day of high tension as the anti-government PDM led by Maulana Rahman and Mr Khan’s PTI are expected to hold rallies in a bid to show his strength. There remain concerns that violence could erupt between the two sides, unless, of course, Prime Minister Khan pulls out his last-minute surprise that could meet opposition demands.

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