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Why did Imran Khan’s Pakistani government fall?

On 9th April, Pakistan’s former PM Imran Khan lost a no-confidence vote after several attempts to retain power such as dissolving the parliament. Despite these desperate attempts to stay in power, why did he lose – and what’s going to happen next?

If you’ve been following the news recently, you’ll have come across headlines such as ‘Pakistan’s PM loses no-confidence vote’ or ‘Pakistan’s PM ousted from power’.

It may come as a surprise that this isn’t a rare occurrence in the South Asian country. In fact, it is even rarer to see a Prime Minister complete a whole term here.

This is because of a culture of corruption and deep military influence on governance.

Recently, however, the nation saw almost every single opposition party- from the left to the extreme right- come together in an alliance against Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

In fact, the resistance grew so strong that even politicians from the ruling party began rallying against their own government. This certainly begs the question- how did this happen?


Why did Imran Khan’s government collapse?

There are a number of reasons for this. To begin with, PTI won in 2018 because of promises that included greater economic opportunities for the poor and no corruption.

Yet, it only took four years for inflation in Pakistan to be the highest in the whole of South Asia.

As the country’s economic condition worsened, the government grew desperate to stabilize the economy. With the nation’s foreign debt already at over $130 billion, Khan’s government made a $6 billion package deal with the International Monetary Fund in 2019, a move that was criticised since he broke his election promise of never taking foreign aid.

In January this year, the Consumer Price Index rose to 13 per cent – the highest in two years. Consequently, food prices rose, the value of the rupee to the dollar fell, and middle-class poverty rose.

Additionally, as of March this year, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics found that 31% of the youth reported facing unemployment – many of whom held professional degrees.

In the government’s defence, Khan said that he inherited a disrupted economy from the previous government; even Pakistan’s Finance Minister Muzzammil Aslam blamed rising gas prices and the pandemic for the state of the economy.

Another key factor has to be the army’s role in his collapse. It is important to note that the army has had significant control on the governance of Pakistan, having been responsible for the establishment and fall of multiple governments in the past.

In 2018, Khan appointed Usman Buzdar, a newcomer, as the Chief Minister of Punjab- a highly important role. The BBC also reported that the army grew increasingly upset with PTI’s governance, particularly in Punjab.

Although it is unclear whether the army had any specific role to play in the downfall of the PTI regime, their dissatisfaction with it seemingly encouraged the opposition to take the opportunity to remove Khan from office.


How did the PTI government fall?

On 8th March, the opposition demanded a no-confidence motion in parliament. Soon, multiple politicians – including PTI members – began expressing their dissatisfaction with the regime. Not only this, many of the parties that were in a collation with the government at the time abandoned them.

For instance, Raja Riaz of PTI, levelled allegations of corruption against his government, saying that they accepted bribes from government officers in order to grant them high-paying jobs in Punjab. Additionally, he said that the Chief Minister of Punjab was also involved in this act.

However, Khan denied these allegations, claiming that opposition forces were plotting his removal from office with the help of the United States; he stated that they attempted to depose of his regime over growing relations with Russia, especially after Khan’s visit to Russia on the day of the Ukraine invasion.

Yet, there is no evidence for this conspiracy.

As days went on, more and more PTI politicians joined the dissenting forces. Fearing that his government would lose the vote, Imran Khan advised President Arif Alvi to dissolve the National Assembly and prepare for elections in the next ninety days.

On 7th April, the Court ruled that this move was unconstitutional and ordered the legislators to return to parliament.

Two days later, PTI lost the vote of no-confidence with 174 votes in favour of Khan’s removal- just two votes more than a simple majority.

Consequently, Imran Khan was forced to step down.


What happens next?

On 11th April, Shahbaz Sharif, leader of the opposition and brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was nominated by the parliament as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan.

He is expected to serve as an interim Prime Minister until the next general election takes place- likely to be held in 2023.

Interestingly, when Sharif was sworn in, over 100 PTI ministers collectively resigned from the parliament on the grounds that he has serious corruption charges against him and that they refuse to accept this government.

A few days later, the remaining PTI members staged an attack against fellow lawmakers and the Deputy Speaker of the House before the motion to elect Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, son of Shahbaz Sharif, as the Chief Minister of Punjab.

Regardless, this Prime Ministerial position comes with its own challenges; for now, Sharif’s primary concerns are going to include boosting the economy and restoring relations with the United States since Khan accused them of conspiring with domestic forces.

For now, the government has indicated that they will resume negotiations with the IMF as they aim to inspire confidence in Pakistan among the international community and wish to prevent an abrupt change of course.

In addition, on the topic of India-Pakistan relations under the Sharif administration, the Prime Minister has stated that he wishes to maintain peaceful ties with India but that is not possible without resolving the Kashmir issue.

With inflation on this rise and a tainted foreign policy, it will certainly be interesting to see whether Shahbaz Sharif’s government can turn things around for the nation of Pakistan.

 

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