Headwinds are blowing over Islamabad, and the days of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan are numbered: the Pakistani National Assembly accepted, Monday, March 28, the tabling of a motion of censure which must be put to the vote in early April. If it is adopted – it would be a first since the country’s independence – Imran Khan, elected in 2018, will have to resign, a year before the normal deadline for general elections, scheduled for 2023.
Parliamentary arithmetic is against the 69-year-old former cricket champion. His party, the Pakistan Justice Movement (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, PTI), which controls 156 of the 342 seats in the National Assembly, does not have a majority on its own. He is at the head of a fragile coalition, allied with regional political parties. Not only did he lose some of their support, but also that of a dozen parliamentarians from his own party. Wednesday, March 30, after a new defection, the opposition could count on 177 votes, more than the majority fixed at 172 parliamentarians, to overthrow the Prime Minister.
Calming gestures and threats
In recent weeks, Imran Khan has alternated between appeasement and threats, offering an olive branch to his party’s dissidents, saying he is ready to forgive them like a “compassionate father” if they supported him again, before warning that the felons must be ready to suffer a “social boycott”. As for his adversaries, he chose invective, calling them “gang of thieves”.
The latter are made up of a troika, including the Bhutto clan, led by the son of the assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir, the Sharif clan – also associated with the family of another former head of government – and the largest Islamist party in the country, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islami-Fazal (JUI-F), led by a religious fundamentalist, Fazlur Rehman. Since 2018, all have contested Khan’s legitimacy, considering his election to be rigged. They accuse him of being responsible for the economic crisis that the country is going through, marked by record unemployment and inflation (over 12% this year), particularly in food and energy, a weakening of the rupee and crushing debt. They also accuse him of selling the country’s sovereignty to the IMF.
Elected with the support of the military, on a promise to revitalize the economy in favor of the poor, create jobs for young people, end endemic corruption, not resort to external loans and improve the external image of the country, Imran Khan is in check. The poor and the middle class are suffering like never before, several of his ministers are implicated in corruption cases and the cycle of debt has not been stopped. Khan’s government reached an agreement with the IMF in May 2019 on an aid program of 6 billion dollars (5.38 billion euros).
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