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Pakistan: PM Imran Khan faces tough no-confidence vote

Opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif warns of further delays



File
File

By AP

Published: Sat 9 Apr 2022, 6:32 PM

Pakistan’s embattled prime minister faces a tough no-confidence vote Saturday, introduced by political opponents who say they have the votes to defeat him.

A combined opposition that spans the political spectrum from the left to the radically religious says it has the 172 votes it needs in Pakistan’s 342-seat Parliament to oust Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Khan took to national television on the eve of the vote calling on supporters to take to the streets to protest on Sunday, an indication he believed he would lose the vote. Pakistan’s five-member Supreme Court on Thursday blocked Khan’s bid to stay in power, ruling that his move to dissolve Parliament and call early elections was illegal.

Thursday’s court decision set the stage for a no-confidence vote, which was likely to go against Khan after several of his ruling party members and a small but key coalition partner defected. The timing of the vote was unclear but the Supreme Court ruling says it should happen before Saturday before midnight strikes.

In a brief exchange in Parliament on Saturday, opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif warned against further delays. Sharif is a likely candidate for prime minister should Khan lose the vote. The opposition introduced the motion last month, accusing the prime minister of economic mismanagement that has driven up prices and interest rates.

Khan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, meanwhile, demanded an investigation into ruling party allegations that the no-confidence vote was a ploy by the opposition and America to unseat Khan, who was not present.

Some of Khan’s party members were vitriolic in their attacks on America. His Human Rights Minister and ally Shireen Mazari slammed what she called Washington’s history of regime changes in Central and South America, saying Pakistan’s long relationship with Washington was good only when Islamabad was “subservient.”

Khan ran afoul of America, she said, because of his independence: he sharply criticized US drone strikes in Pakistan and refused to allow the U.S. military to fly over its air space to carry out attacks in Afghanistan, after its chaotic departure from that country.

In an impassioned speech Friday, Khan doubled down on his accusations that his opponents colluded with the United States to unseat him over his foreign policy choices, which often seemed to favour China and Russia and defied the US.

Khan said Washington opposed his February 24 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin hours after tanks rolled into Ukraine, launching a devastating war in the heart of Europe.

The US State Department has denied any involvement in Pakistan’s internal politics. Deputy State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters on Friday there was “absolutely no truth to these allegations.”

“Of course, we continue to follow these developments and support Pakistan’s constitutional process, but again these allegations are absolutely not true,” she said.

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Still, Khan urged his supporters to take to the streets, particularly the youth who have been the backbone of his support since the former cricket star turned conservative Islamist politician came to power in 2018. He said they needed to protect Pakistan’s sovereignty and oppose US dictations.

“You have to come out to protect your own future. It is you who have to protect your democracy, your sovereignty and your independence. ... This is your duty,” he said. “I will not accept an imposed government.”

Khan’s options are limited and should he see a big turnout in support, he may try to keep the momentum of street protests as a way to pressure Parliament to dissolve and go to early elections.

A no-confidence vote loss for Khan on Saturday would bring to power some unlikely partners.


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