Move meant to circumvent his ouster . . .
On Sunday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan dismissed a no-confidence motion against him, dissolved parliament, and called for early elections, sending opposition parties into a tailspin after weeks of mounting political drama. Khan’s critics in the National Assembly said they had lined up enough votes to oust him as PM, but he remained defiant, alleging the motion was a U.S.-backed plot against him. While the opposition says it is confident it will prevail in the next election, it is challenging the constitutionality of Khan’s actions. The matter is now before the Supreme Court.
Rivals smell blood in the water . . .
Khan’s political opponents cited his mishandling of the economy as the reason for trying to replace him. Pakistan is facing intense inflationary pressures, which are battering the middle and lower economic classes. Despite earlier campaign promises, Khan has also failed to break the country’s over-reliance on debt. But the opposition may also see an opportunity to capitalize on Khan’s loss of support from Pakistan’s powerful military establishment, particularly General Qamar Javed Bajwa, described as the country’s “de facto most powerful man.” Bajwa, who has UN peacekeeping experience and is a graduate of U.S. and Canadian military colleges, has taken issue with Khan’s increasingly populist and strident anti-U.S. and anti-Indian foreign policy.
Rough road ahead . . .
However the Supreme Court rules on Khan’s recent actions, many believe the damage to Pakistan’s democracy has already been done. In its 75-year-history, no prime minister has ever served out a full five-year term, with some having been deposed, exiled, and in one case, executed. The political crisis is emerging at a crucial time for Pakistan. It is the recipient of a C$7.47-billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help stabilize its economy. But it is not clear whether the opposition, which has not offered its own economic plan, or Khan, if he prevails in the next election, will comply with the IMF’s austerity measures. Internationally, Khan’s embrace of U.S. adversaries such as China and Russia could widen the rift with the military, making his political future even more tenuous than it already is.