01/19/2023, 17.41
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Imran Khan gets two provincial assemblies dissolved, pushes for early elections

The Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkwa assemblies are dissolved. After street protests failed, the former prime minister has changed his strategy to return to power. Prime Minister Sharif accuses him of creating chaos as the country grapples with its economic crisis. Some fear that the political stalemate could lead to the military making a comeback.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Pakistan's former prime minister, Imran Khan, secured the dissolution of two provincial assemblies, that of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa yesterday and that of Punjab three days earlier, both of which were controlled by his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice, PTI).

The PTI leader is trying to force Pakistan’s federal government to dissolve the National Assembly and hold elections before the scheduled date in October,

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Ghulam Ali said he had "no choice" but to dissolve the provincial assembly after the Chief Minister, a member of the PTI, sent him the summary for the dissolution; in Punjab, Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi signed the of the provincial assembly.

Under existing laws, once a provincial legislature is dissolved, voting must be held within 90 days, but it is also common practice to combine them with federal elections. Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, two of Pakistan's four provinces, are home to more than half of the country's 220 million inhabitants.

Imran Khan, 70, has been calling for early elections since April last year, i.e. after he lost the support of the military that had favoured his rise.

The former cricket star was ousted in a non-confidence vote by the National Assembly, and replaced by Shehbaz Sharif, from the Muslim League of Pakistan (N), as the new prime minister.

In recent months, Khan organised protest marches against the current government; in November, after being wounded by a bullet in the leg, he decided to change strategy, but kept on attacking the current government.

For his part, Prime Minister Sharif has accused Khan of trying to create chaos at a time when the country's economic situation appears increasingly precarious.

Recently, Mr Sharif and General Asim Munir, Chief of Army Staff, managed to get more loans from the Gulf monarchies, historical allies of Pakistan, after the central bank's foreign exchange reserves fell to .3 billion, the lowest figure since 2014.

Last week, at the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan, in Geneva (Switzerland), Pakistan raised US$ 10 billion, mostly in project loans, to cope with the aftermath of the August floods.

It is unclear whether the funds are conditional on Pakistan pursuing a reform programme in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund; the latter expects Pakistan's external debt to reach US$ 138 billion by June this year.

Some analysts fear that the political stalemate, combined with the worsening economic situation, could push the military to seize power as it has done several times in the past.

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