03/22/2022, 18.15
PAKISTAN
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Opposition’s call for a vote of no confidence to decide Imran Khan’s fate

A vote is expected in the coming days. Some lawmakers have left the prime minister’s party. Critics accuse the former cricketeer of surrendering Pakistan’s financial sovereignty to the International Monetary Fund.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government face a vote of no-confidence, possibly next Friday, in the National Assembly, the lower house of Pakistan’s parliament.

A motion to that effect was presented by an alliance of opposition parties that formed the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

The PDM includes other parties, like the Awami National Party and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, as well as former members of the prime minister’s own Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party who defected to the opposition. Khan’s “fatherly” attempts to get defectors back into the fold have failed so far.

For their part, the former dominant parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistani Peoples Party (PPP), once led by two former prime ministers, Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, blame Khan for the country’s poor economic situation and accuse him of mismanaging its foreign policy.

The government needs at least 172 votes in the 342-member National Assembly. Following the defections, it is left with 155 votes against 160 for the opposition, which might win over some of the other lawmakers during the vote of no confidence.

Since independence in 1947, no Pakistani prime minister has completed a regular five-year term. The next election is scheduled for 2023.

The PML-N and the PPP tabled a no-confidence motion earlier this month and a vote was supposed to take place between yesterday and today, but the speaker of the National Assembly Asad Qaiser, postponed it until after the start (today) of 48th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation in Islamabad.

In a statement last week, Human Rights Watch warned that violence might break out in the country as the ruling party and the two major opposition parties plan rallies in the coming days.

Last week, several PTI supporters forced their way into Sindh House, where dissident lawmakers were staying. Protesters broke down the entrance gate and shouted slogans against the “turncoats”.

Police arrested a dozen people and the opposition described the incident as a “terrorist act” by the government.

According to some analysts, Imran Khan has lost the support of the military and Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which helped his rise in 2018.

In any case, the disaster has been long in the making. in September 2021 the PTI had a poor show in local elections in areas with a strong military presence.

The party lost again in December 2021 in provincial elections in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which borders Afghanistan, and where the PTI was in power since 2013.

Critics blame Imran Khan for surrendering Pakistan's financial sovereignty to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), from which Pakistan borrowed US$ 40 billion, while inflation and the prices of basic necessities continue to rise.

At the beginning of the year, petrol prices hit a historic high with inflation running at 13 per cent.

While some admit that Khan inherited an economy already in crisis, his government wasted the opportunity provided by the pandemic and the rise in energy prices to make structural reforms.

While the IMF called for tax increases, the government chose populist policies such as lowering fuel prices.

In the meantime, inflation now stands at 20 per cent and experts warn that IMF conditions for a new bailout could even more stringent.

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