Pakistan's Imran Khan Ousted In Midnight No Confidence Vote, Urges Supporters Rise Up Against US-Led "Foreign Conspiracy"
The past week has witnessed a political earthquake rock nuclear-armed Pakistan, culminating in the historically unprecedented ouster of its sitting prime minister by a vote of no-confidence in parliament. The country has seen many days of constitutional chaos and massive rival street protests unfold, culminating in the midnight Saturday vote to boot longtime ruler Imran Khan, who has now seen his term end Sunday.
Khan was earlier able to block a similar attempt by seeking to dissolve parliament (a move thwarted by the country's Supreme Court), but by the weekend some key political allies deserted him, leading to 174 parliamentarians passing the no-confidence motion, which required 172 votes among the 342 seat parliament to pass.
Crucially Khan quickly pointed the finger at the United States, and urged his supporters across the nation to take to the streets. The Hill writes, "Anticipating his loss, Khan, who charged his opposition colluded with the United States to unseat him, has called on his supporters to stage rallies nationwide on Sunday."
"Khan’s options are limited and should he see a big turnout in his support, he may try to keep the momentum of street protests as a way to pressure Parliament to hold early elections," the report continues. Khan said in a national address on Friday: "You have to come out to protect your own future. It is you who have to protect your democracy, your sovereignty and your independence. … This is your duty." He vowed: "I will not accept an imposed government."
It's believed his relations with the country's powerful military (which has long been the core of Islamabad's 'deep state') have soured, also amid surging inflation and a plummeting rupee, earning charges of severe economic mismanagement from the political opposition and widespread public anger. In particularl he's said to have clashed with Pakistan's Army Chief as well as the foreign office.
It bears recalling that PM Khan had met with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Feb.24 - a mere hours before Russian tanks rolled across the border into Ukraine. Despite the Feb.23-24 visit being long in planning, and primarily aimed at boosting energy and trade ties between the two countries, the poor timing served to spotlight the controversy of the visit and warming Pakistan-Russia relations.
Deutsche Welle "EU diplomatic circles have not taken Khan's Russia trip well."
Al Jazeera pointed out that "when Russia’s President Vladimir Putin formally announced the invasion of Ukraine just before daybreak on February 24, eliciting swift global condemnation and sending international markets into a tailspin, Prime Minister Khan and his delegation were just settling in their hotel rooms in Moscow."
Khan's accusations and denunciations of a US hidden hand behind his ouster forced a response from Washington, with the State Department on Friday issuing a statement saying there was "absolutely no truth to these allegations."
"Of course, we continue to follow these developments, and we respect and support Pakistan's constitutional process and rule of law. But again, these allegations are absolutely not true," a spokesperson said. Khan has specifically pointed to the Feb.24 Putin meeting as what finally set in motion Washington's regime change playbook against him.
1/3 Regime change pulls Pak back into US orbit; has huge implications for gathering storms in Gulf (if JCPOA negotiations in Vienna were to collapse.) https://t.co/3SYlLUzHHO— M. K. Bhadrakumar (@BhadraPunchline) April 9, 2022
Quite interestingly, the embattled 69-year old leader who was elected as prime minister in 2018, has in the last days issued very specific charges concerning US actors from the embassy plotting against him in regime change efforts led from Washington.
He's described it as a "foreign conspiracy" to topple him and destabilize the country of some 225 million Muslims:
Mr Khan has alleged that Donald Lu, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs in the Department of State was involved in the ‘foreign conspiracy' to topple his government.
But it remains that over a dozen defectors from Khan's own political party had turned against him, enabling the no confidence vote. These also deny that they were in cahoots with a foreign power as he's been busy alleging.
Pakistan became an independent state in 1947; but the freedom struggle begins again today against a foreign conspiracy of regime change. It is always the people of the country who defend their sovereignty & democracy.— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) April 10, 2022
In his first reaction on Sunday since his ouster, Khan again doubled-down, saying the "freedom struggle" against "a foreign conspiracy of regime change" will continue, calling on Pakistanis to "defend their sovereignty and democracy".
All of this leaves the opposition's Shehbaz Sharif poised to take power, as the BBC previews:
Opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif - who is expected to be chosen as the new prime minister on Monday - said Pakistan and its parliament were "finally freed from a serious crisis", adding in a tweet: "Congratulations to the Pakistani nation on a new dawn."
If voted in by parliament, Mr Sharif - a long-time rival of Mr Khan and brother of former three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif - would be able to hold power until October 2023, when the next election is due to be held.
Pakistan Media reports that all airports across Pakistan have been put on high alert and no Government officials will be allowed to leave the country.— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) April 9, 2022
But if Khan can get his supporters into the streets in large enough numbers, the country could be in for some near-term turmoil. Military and police appear to be readying additional measures for such a scenario, with weekend reports indicating all airports being put on on 'high alert' security status.
Khan has long been critical of US foreign policy, particularly post-9/11 global war on terror policies, which could further serve in this currently crisis to tap into conservative Islamic anti-American sectors of society...
Tens of thousands of people came together in Islamabad, Pakistan a few days ago following Prime Minister Khan's call to hold protests against "a foreign conspiracy to overthrow a democratically-elected government". pic.twitter.com/l6RztgSGNU— Mnar Adley (@MnarMuh) April 9, 2022
For decades going back to when Pakistan achieved nuclear weapons status, the US has appeared to prioritize stability and counterterror cooperation, centered on close relations with the country's military, somewhat akin to the situation of a long-term US supported security state in Egypt.