Asia Pacific

Why Did the Pakistani Parliament Pass a Vote of No-Confidence against Imran Khan?

Economic incompetence, not foreign interference, led to the fall of a populist prime minister who promised much but failed to deliver.

England’s Pakistan community demonstrated at the recent election result in which favoured prime minister Imran Khan was ousted. © Philip Robinson 1/Shuttertock

April 21, 2022 08:38 EDT

The unprecedented political drama finally concluded with a successful vote of no-confidence in the National Assembly, Pakistan’s lower house of parliament. On April 9, the National Assembly of Pakistan ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan in a late-night vote. After an entire day full of dilatory tactics and backstage negotiations, the opposition bloc ultimately cobbled together 174 members to vote in favor of the resolution — two more than the required 172 vote threshold. Sudden resignations from both the speaker and the deputy speaker allowed Sardar Ayaz Sadiq to take charge. He is a former speaker of the National Assembly and a senior leader of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), known as PML-N. With Sadiq in the speaker’s chair, Khan became the first Pakistani prime minister to lose a no-confidence vote in parliament.

Economic Collapse, Not Foreign Conspiracy Led to Fall

Khan claimed there was a foreign conspiracy to oust him. He tried to subvert both the parliament and the judiciary to cling on to power. Yet his claims of a foreign hand in his ouster appear overly exaggerated. In three years and eight months as prime minister, Khan was known more for headlines than for results. He was vocal on the incendiary Kashmir issue where he sought US intervention. Khan was in the limelight for visiting China for the Winter Olympics and for visiting Russia even as Russian troops invaded Ukraine. For all his flirtation with China and Russia, Khan did little to hurt US interests in the region. In fact, Khan was a middleman between the US and the Taliban that led to the Doha Agreement. He facilitated the peaceful takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, allowing US troops to withdraw from the region.

The real reason Khan was voted out of the prime minister’s office is his lack of competence in economic matters. Inflation has run persistently high and stood at 12.7% in March. Not all of it is Khan’s fault. Commodity and energy prices have been surging. However, Khan’s government presided over the greatest increase in public debt in Pakistan’s history. The nation’s debt went up by over $99 billion (18 trillion Pakistani rupees). This unleashed inflationary pressures in the economy and caused the economy to enter free fall.

Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves dropped dramatically. On March 25, these reserves were $12,047.3 million. By April 1, they had fallen to $11.32 billion, a loss of $728 million in a mere six days. The Pakistani rupee also fell to a record low of 191 to the dollar.

What Next for Pakistan?

After the ouster of Khan, PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif has taken over. He is known as a competent administrator. Political analysts believe that Sharif would pivot Pakistan toward a traditional foreign policy vis-à-vis the US and Europe. His government has already resumed talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It will try its best to avail the remaining $3 billion under the IMF’s $6 billion loan program more speedily to stabilize its foreign exchange reserves and strengthen the rupee.

Political uncertainty was roiling markets. They might settle now that a new government is in charge. Pakistan faces a tricky situation, both politically and economically. Khan still has ardent supporters and the country is divided. The economy is perhaps at its lowest ebb at a time when the risk of a global recession is running high. To navigate such a critical period, a coalition government formed by an alliance of seasoned politicians might be a blessing for Pakistan.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.


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