Pakistan – Prime Minister Imran Khan overthrown by a motion of no confidence
It’s an abrupt end to the game for the 69-year-old former cricketer who came to power after the 2018 legislative elections.
Imran Khan did not escape the fate of his predecessors: he was forced on Sunday to leave his post as prime minister before the end of his mandate, with an image damaged by his political maneuvers and his quarrelsome rhetoric.
No prime minister has ever completed his term in Pakistan, and this 69-year-old former sports star is no different. He was overthrown by a motion of censure voted by the National Assembly, after having done everything to delay the inevitable.
He thought he had dodged the ax six days earlier, obtaining that the motion not be put to the vote and that the Assembly be dissolved. But the Supreme Court ruled the whole process unconstitutional. She restored the Assembly and ordered that she proceed to the vote on the motion of censure, which Mr. Khan, dropped a few days ago by several of his allies, lost. Always popular with large sections of the population, he has probably not said his last word in view of the upcoming elections.
But his record and his propensity in recent days to accentuate the fractures of Pakistani society, with virulent attacks on the opposition, accused of « treason », could work against him. Imran Khan came to power in 2018, after his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), won the legislative elections on a populist platform combining promises of social reform, religious conservatism and the fight against corruption.
A deteriorated security situation
Twenty-two years after entering politics, the tenacity of the man who is idolized by millions of Pakistanis for having led the national cricket team, king sport in the country, to its only victory in the World Cup in 1992, was thus rewarded.
As head of government, he first capitalized on his incorruptible image and society’s weariness of traditional parties, which monopolized power for decades with the army. During the Covid-19 pandemic, his choice not to impose a nationwide lockdown, which would have « starved » people to death, proved popular and successful. The country was largely spared (30,000 dead). But the economic situation and his bad choices eventually caught up with him. High inflation, the depreciation of the rupee since July and the widening of the debt have weakened it.
Deteriorating security, particularly since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in mid-August, has also contributed to its difficulties. Their triumphant return was first interpreted as a victory for Pakistan, accused for a long time of supporting them, and for the one who was decked out with the nickname of « Taliban Khan » for having never ceased to advocate dialogue with them. . But after several years of relative calm, the attacks have resumed since August, led in particular by the Pakistani Taliban of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Accused of complacency towards the radicals
Imran Khan has also suffered from the probable deterioration of his ties with the army, which was accused of having interfered in his favor in 2018, even if it has remained silent in recent days. His efforts to position Pakistan as a key regional player have had little effect either. Ties with Washington and European countries have been stretched, notably under the effect of his diatribes against Islamophobia, disguised in his eyes in the West under the guise of freedom of expression. Islamabad has moved even closer to China. And Imran Khan’s official visit to Moscow on the very day of the outbreak of war in Ukraine earned him much ridicule.
This son of a wealthy family in Lahore, a graduate of Oxford, married three times after having maintained a reputation as a playboy during his sports career, has also been criticized for his complacency towards religious radicals. Married for the third time in 2018 to Bushra Bibi, from a conservative family and who wears the veil, he has vehemently defended the controversial blasphemy law.
In November, his government lifted the ban on Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), imposed in April after violent anti-French demonstrations organized by this Islamist party, which denounced France’s support for the right to caricature, including the Prophet Muhammad. Often accused of having restricted the space for expression of the press, Imran Khan has also aroused the indignation of feminist organizations by establishing several times a link between rape and the way women dress, in a country where sexual violence is common.