© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A shop owner adjusts a television screen to watch Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech at his store in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 31, 2022. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro
By Asif Shahzad and Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Political turmoil in Pakistan worsened on Sunday, as Prime Minister Imran Khan avoided an attempt to oust him and sought new elections, a move the opposition The challenge is treason and vows to fight.
The deputy speaker of parliament, a member of Khan’s party, thwarted a movement of no-confidence in the opposition that Khan had been tipped to fail.
However, the amnesty has sparked a potential constitutional battle, increasing uncertainty in the nuclear-armed nation of 220 million people.
President Arif Alvi, also from Khan’s party, approved his request to dissolve parliament and Khan called on the country to prepare for new elections.
But Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, head of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, promised to sit in parliament and told reporters, “We are also moving to the Supreme Court today.”
Opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif, who goes ahead to replace Khan if he is removed, called the parliamentary bloc “nothing highly treasonous”.
“There will be consequences if there is a blatant and brazen violation of the Constitution,” Sharif said on Twitter (NYSE:), adding that he hopes the Supreme Court will play a role in upholding the Constitution.
The opposition blames Khan for failing to revive the economy and crack down on corruption. He has said, without providing evidence, that the move to oust him was orchestrated by the United States, a claim Washington denies.
The opposition and analysts say that Khan, an international cricket champion turned politician who came to power in 2018 with the help of the military, has failed to do so, an allegation. which he and the military denied.
“The military has nothing to do with the political process,” Major General Babar Iftikhar, the army’s head of public relations, told Reuters in response to a question about the institution’s involvement in the events. turn on Sunday.
The chief justice’s office said the Supreme Court was aware of Sunday’s political developments.
The chief justice “has been briefed on the current situation. Details will be shared shortly,” a statement from his office said.
No prime minister has ended a five-year term since Pakistan’s independence from Britain in 1947, and generals have in some cases reigned in the country, which has long been at odds with its armed neighbour. The nuclear weapon is India.
BULLET DODGED FOR NOW
State Information Minister Farrukh Habib said new elections would be held in 90 days, although that decision rests with the president and the election commission.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Khan’s cabinet had been disbanded but he would remain prime minister.
Deputy Attorney General Raja Khalid, a top prosecutor, resigned, calling the government parliament’s move unconstitutional. “What happened can only be expected in the rule of a dictator,” he told local media.
Potential new instability in Pakistan comes as the country faces high inflation, dwindling foreign exchange reserves and a widening deficit. The country is in the midst of the International Monetary Fund’s difficult bailout program.
In addition to the economic crisis, Islamabad faces challenges including efforts to balance global pressure to push the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan to meet human rights commitments while trying to limit instability there. .
Khan lost his parliamentary majority after allies abandoned his coalition government and he suffered a series of defections within his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.
With coalition partners and some of his own lawmakers fleeing earlier in the week, Khan looks set to fall below the 172 votes needed to survive a no-confidence vote if the opposition remains united. conclude.
A popular newspaper recently said Khan was “as good as he was gone”, but he urged his supporters to take to the streets on Sunday ahead of the expected vote.
Instead, lawmakers from Khan’s party shouted: “An American friend is a traitor” to Pakistan, as they gathered in front of the speaker’s podium. Deputy spokesman Qasim Suri said the no-confidence movement was unconstitutional.
The opposition benches, shocked by the sudden move, mostly remained seated.
On the streets of the capital, Islamabad, there was a thick police and paramilitary presence, with shipping containers used to block the roads, according to a Reuters witness.
Police were seen arresting three supporters of Mr Khan’s ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party outside parliament, but the streets were quieter.