Imran Khan was elected Pakistan’s prime minister early on Sunday, ending weeks of political turmoil that sent the rupee depreciating, dragged down the country’s stock market and forced the central bank to raise interest rates.
After a tense session of the lower house that began on Saturday morning, Pakistan’s coalition of opposition parties won the support of 174 members in the 342-seat lower house to pass a vote of no confidence in Mr. Mr. Khan.
“We will bring stability to Pakistan. There will be no revenge against anyone,” said Shehbaz Sharif, the opposition leader after the vote.
Sharif, descended from a leading industrial family and brother of three-term former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, was voted the opposition’s candidate to become the next prime minister in a ballot. is expected to appoint him Pakistan’s new leader on Sunday.
Khan, a famous international cricket star, became prime minister in 2018 thanks to his promises to reform Pakistan. While in office, he changed his playboy image from the 1970s and 1980s and became an admirer of conservative Islam, celebrating the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan last year.
But his ouster more than a year before elections scheduled for next summer comes at a time of growing economic challenges for the country. The nuclear-armed nation is on a $6 billion loan program from the IMF linked to unpopular measures including rising electricity and water prices.
Meanwhile, increasing rapidly inflationarypartly due to the impact of rising commodity prices, which has led to warnings of unrest.
Maleeha Lodhi, a former ambassador to the United States and the United Nations and now a political commentator, said: “Hubris, its erratic governance, its economic mismanagement and its intolerance of the opposition are among the key factors. leading to his downfall.
Before Khan’s departure, it was widely reported that Pakistan’s powerful military had withdrawn its support for the prime minister. The opposition claimed after his election in 2018 that the military played a decisive role in ensuring his victory, including influencing leading politicians to back him. . Senior military officers denied the claims.
Pakistan has been ruled by the military for less than half of its 75 years since it gained independence from the British Raj.
“The transition ahead is challenging, especially managing an economy of debt and inflation,” Lodhi said.
“The road ahead is characterized by uncertainty. But the good news is that the constitution won and democracy was consolidated.”
Business leaders warn that the new government will face tough challenges such as public anger over rising fuel and electricity prices.
Last month, under growing pressure from his political opponents, Khan announced subsidies for fuel and electricity prices in an attempt to win popular support. A senior Finance Ministry official in Islamabad told the FT that the IMF was opposed to the subsidies.
“This is not a good time for any new leadership to take charge of Pakistan,” said the head of a leading company in Karachi, Pakistan’s southern port city.
Separately, a senior opposition leader told the FT that Sharif could announce parliamentary elections before the end of the year “to avoid participating in the election”. [in 2023] when economic trends could make his government more unpopular.”
Over the past few weeks, Khan has repeatedly claimed that he was the victim of an American plot to get rid of him after a trip to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on the day Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. American officials have denied this claim.
Politicians close to Khan say he plans to bring up the issue at rallies in the coming days to garner support.
One said: “Imran Khan wants the Pakistani people to remember him for standing up to America, even at the cost of losing power.”