The unseating of Pakistan’s once-favored Cricket player

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Jess Diez
Managing Editor & Research Associate, Middle East Policy Council

April 12, 2022

On Monday, April 11, Pakistan’s parliament elected Shehbaz Sharif as the country’s new prime minister. This decision came after Prime Minister Imran Khan was voted out of office following the voting success of a no confidence motion on April 10. Khan, a Cricket star from an affluent Lahori family turned politician, came into office in 2018 with the promise of change and anti-American sentiment. He created his own party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). However, Khan’s administration began experiencing double-digit inflation nation-wide, claims of fiscal negligence, and the Pakistani rupee’s value decreased to an all-time low. The country’s economic downfall, among other issues, caused an increase in various allegations of poor governance. A 13-hour session, including delays and speeches from Khan’s party, resulted in Khan’s opposition securing 174 no-confidence votes out of 342 members in the Parliament, which required 172 votes to pass. The no-confidence motion against Khan made him the first prime minister to be unseated due to a parliamentary revolt in Pakistan’s history.

Khan called on his supporters for reinforcement both before and after Sunday’s motion. According to The Express Tribute, a national Pakistani newspaper, Khan had “talked about his future plans during his last address as a prime minister to the nation on Friday. Urging the masses to come out against the imported government on Sunday night, Imran pledged in his televised address that he would not sit idly by and continue to struggle against the foreign intervention into Pakistan’s internal matters…He repeatedly asked the nation to decide if they wanted to live on the terms dictated by others. If the answer was affirmative, he asked, what was the purpose of celebrating Pakistan Day on March 23 and Independence Day on August 14 every year. In his address, Imran stressed that the nation would have to decide what kind of Pakistan they wanted to live in. He also emphasized that the masses need to protect democracy and sovereignty of the country and not the army. While urging the people to stand with him, he said that Pakistan should not be treated as a nation which could be used like a tissue paper. He emphasized that a one-sided relationship would not work anymore.”

According to Gulf Today, Khan stated there was foreign interference within the regime change, igniting a conspiracy of U.S. meddling in current Pakistani politics. Khan has claimed “the US worked behind the scenes to bring him down, purportedly because of Washington’s displeasure over his independent foreign policy choices, which often favor China and Russia. He has occasionally defied America and stridently criticised America’s post 9/11 war on terror. Imran said America was deeply disturbed by his visit to Russia and his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb.24, the start of the devastating war in Ukraine. The US State Department has denied his allegations.”

However, Khan is not the first Pakistani prime minister to fail to complete his full five-year term, and some have returned to power. In fact, no prime minister has completed a full five-year tenure in the country’s 75 year history, an unbroken trend continued with the ousting of Khan. Writing for Al Jazeera, Cyril Almeida brings up the possibility of Khan’s political comeback: “Removed prime ministers have previously returned in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto of the PPP was re-elected in 1993 and Nawaz Sharif, leader of the PML-N, was elected prime minister a third time in 2013. So while Khan is once again on the outside looking in, in the murky world of Pakistani politics, where the military’s political preferences have swung wildly in the past, his defeat might only be temporary. A potential comeback would be rooted in a febrile political base, seemingly more charged than ever after Khan’s exit.”

Writing for Dawn, the oldest English-language Pakistani newspaper, Fahd Husain highlights another perspective on the future of Khan’s party, notably highlighting his opinion on the lack of a future. Husain’s piece states that: “the new government is expected to chart a less confrontational course, and it is also expected to build a better working relationship between all institutions, but the toxins of hate and loathing continue to hover in the air we breathe. They have germinated from within the brand of politics practiced by the PTI — politics that has led it down the reckless path of constitutional violations and quasi-democratic machinations…If it intends to reform and redeem itself in the coming months and years, it will need to first acknowledge the mistakes it has made. Nothing today suggests that it intends to do any such thing. PTI the party will therefore stumble and fall. ”

Oppositional politicians have already taken advantage of Khan being unseated. Shehbaz Sharif officially became the prime minister until the general election in 2023. Sharif served as Punjab’s Chief Minister and is the brother of the former three-time Pakistani prime minister. However, according to the Jerusalem Post, Khan’s party also submitted a re-nomination for Khan:Khan’s former information minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters of the plan for resignations if their nominee does not win. The speaker would be obliged to accept those resignations that would necessitate by-elections in probably more than 100 seats. That could plunge the country into another crisis as the election commission has previously said it would not be ready to hold elections until October.”

According to Khaleej Times, Shehbaz Sharif thanked those who stood up “for the Constitution.” Addressing the National Assembly early Sunday, Sharif said: “‘I don’t want to go back to the bitterness of the past. We want to forget them and move forward. We will not take revenge or do injustice; we will not send people to jail for no reason, law and justice will take its course’…Ex-president and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chair Asif Ali Zaradri had proposed Sharif’s name for prime minister in a joint opposition’s meeting.”

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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