Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan boycotted the confidence vote and dissolved parliament

As a commotion spread across the assembly room, angry opposition leaders accused Khan of treason and announced that he would immediately go to the Supreme Court to demand that the referendum be held as planned. Until the afternoon, however, the court took no action to challenge the cancellation of the vote and the closure of parliament, with the Pakistani president ordered to plan for early elections.

As of Saturday, opposition leaders had gathered enough support votes among lawmakers to oust Khan from power, as he struggled to manage inflation and other domestic issues. But the 69-year-old Khan, an attractive former cricket star who won the post in 2018 after campaigning to reform a corrupt political system and bring justice to all Pakistanis, has accused the attempt to oust him of being a foreign conspiracy.

On Saturday, Khan vowed to oppose the no-confidence motion, pointing to a surprise move to come, and calling on supporters to hold peaceful protests across the country.

“I congratulate the nation. The speaker rejected an outsider’s attempt at regime change, ”Khan said in a brief televised statement on Sunday, sounding tired but excited. “The nation will not allow this conspiracy to succeed. Let the assembly be dissolved and go back to the people. We will prepare for the new elections and you will decide the future of Pakistan.

In recent weeks, as he has been fighting for his political career, Khan has repeatedly accused the US administration of being behind a plot to oust him from power, citing a private diplomatic cable and suggesting that Washington be happy with the new leaders in Pakistan. But the cable was not disclosed, and a State Department spokesman said the allegations were “not true.”

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The controversy has plunged Pakistan’s chaotic democracy, confronting its civilian institutions into one another and turning the legislature into a battleground. This has put new strains on Pakistan’s long but peaceful relations with the United States, which has shifted from mutual accusations of interference in Afghanistan from the Cold War and counter – terrorism cooperation. Khan’s government is now very close to its most important economic and political ally, China.

Khan, A. who came to power Liberal domestic reformer, who later transformed himself into a devout Muslim and radical nationalist. In recent speeches, with Messianic zeal, he portrayed the struggle for political survival as a “war for the future of our country,” and he – Pakistan – Atomic power of 220 million people – To choose between being a proud, independent nation or being subjugated as “slaves” to foreign interests.

Khan, who has stumbled in his efforts to boost the economy and implement the promised reforms, is seeking to regain popular support for his massive, more spiritual vision of the nation – which could dominate his expected election campaign. He told the audience that his struggle for power was a conflict between “good and evil.”

Pakistan’s powerful military establishment responded quickly to the political upheaval, saying it would stay out of the crisis altogether. Chief Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Babur Iftikhar told the Hum News TV channel on Sunday afternoon, “The military has nothing to do with what happened today. What happened today is a pure political process. He added that the military “stands by the law and the constitution.”

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Pakistan has a long history of interfering in domestic and electoral politics, and has seized power several times since its founding in 1947. Khan’s relationship with military officials has cooled since they indirectly backed his candidacy in 2018. But despite the current military struggle to keep Khan in office, the leaders pledged to remain neutral in civil politics.

Top political opposition leaders, who had hoped Khan would be ousted by the end of Sunday, were left in a state of anger and frustration. Pilawal Bhutto Zardari, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, said the suspension of the referendum was “completely illegal”. “The Prime Minister has lost the majority. He must leave.”

Shahbaz Sharif, a senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League, demanded that Khan and the speaker be found guilty of treason for violating the constitution. Sheriff and Zardari, longtime rivals from wealthy political dynasties, joined forces with several parties to overthrow Khan. Both have been charged with financial crimes by the Khan government and are currently out on bail.

It is unclear when the Supreme Court will act on the opposition’s demands to re-authorize the no-confidence vote. For now, in protest, members of the opposition gathered in the Assembly building until noon, turned off the lights and held discussions at their desks.

Khan, during his condemnation Longtime opponents, such as traitors and thieves, recently jumped on board and expressed particular contempt for opposition lawmakers, whose fortunes plummeted, calling them “turncoats” sold “like sheep” at an exhibition.

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Change of the opportunist party is common in Pakistan and is viewed by observers as a permanent obstacle to the development of a stable and mature democracy.

Some analysts have described the crisis as a new example of why Pakistan’s democratic system is both a parody and a failure – a game of musical chairs rather than a solid institution. “[This] The latest episode of Pakistan’s political soap opera, ”said writer Zahid Hussain Wrote in the Dawn newspaper Recently. Some of Khan’s former believers say he has failed to deliver on a series of firm promises, including the eradication of corruption, government reform and poverty reduction.

“Mr. Imran Khan, despite his lofty claims, I am very disappointed that he has failed in all fields,” said Malik Ahmed Hussain Tehr, a Member of Parliament for Khan’s party. Khan “is trying to borrow for an independent foreign policy, but we are isolated internationally.

Sheikh Hussein in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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