Pakistan’s prime minister clings to power after no-confidence vote stalls
A maverick politician who swept to office in 2018 promising to end corruption and build an egalitarian “new Pakistan,” Khan was facing a near-certain loss of power as a majority of 342 legislators opposed him, joining a coalition of opposition parties and bolstered by defections from Khan’s Pakistan Justice Movement.
If Khan is voted out of power, opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif, 70, a veteran politician who heads the Pakistan Muslim League party, is expected to be chosen to replace him. But all bets appeared to be off as midnight approached with no movement on the vote and National Assembly members still sitting idle.
Khan has struggled for months to control Pakistan’s rampant inflation, foreign debt and other economic woes, while many of his promised reforms and civic projects sputtered. He maintained a loyal following, especially among young Pakistanis, but made political enemies, rejected advice from military leaders and lost allies to the opposition, which slowly gathered enough support to challenge his fitness for office.
In a subdued but defiant television address to the nation Friday night, Khan said he would accept the decision Thursday by the nation’s Supreme Court, which ruled that the legislature must be restored and the vote held. While tacitly acknowledging that he would probably lose, Khan called on his supporters to come out in “peaceful protest” afterward and vowed to seek election again.
Khan, a charismatic former cricket star, initially inspired millions of voters with his anti-establishment rhetoric and vision of building a “new Pakistan” — an Islamic welfare state based on opportunity, justice and independence for the impoverished Muslim-majority nation of 220 million.
The attempt to remove Khan comes more than 18 months before the end of his five-year term. If removed, he would join the beleaguered roster of elected Pakistani prime premiers, all of whom have been forced from power before finishing their prescribed time in office.