Imran Khan could be you as Pakistan’s prime minister following row with country’s military

Imran Khan faces being ousted as Pakistan’s prime minister after parliament turned on him following a row with the all powerful military as the country is rocked by a rapidly escalating fuel and food crisis.

A vote to remove the former national cricket captain, who was elected in 2018, will begin on Monday. MPs were due to begin the no confidence proceedings on Friday but were delayed after the death of a sitting politician.

Opposition parties reacted angrily to the hold up and said it would give Mr Khan time to appeal to the more than 20 lawmakers who have deserted his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in recent weeks, leaving him short of a majority in parliament .

The PTI is also planning a large public rally in Islamabad on Sunday which will likely also reignite some support for Mr Khan and his party.

Mr Khan benefitted from the backing of Pakistan’s military, the country’s power brokers, when he was elected. But, he is now believed to have fallen out with senior leaders, which has weakened his position in the eyes of some MPs.

The first public signs of discontent emerged in October when Mr Khan objected to the army’s decision to appoint a new head of Pakistan’s intelligence services, the ISI, with the deposed predecessor a key Khan ally.

“In terms of the security establishment, my sense is that the relationship between Mr Khan and the army chief has taken a nosedive since their spat over the new head of the ISI,” comments Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center.

“Given how things work in Pakistan, if you are the Prime Minister and your relationship with the army chief takes a tumble then it makes your political position much more vulnerable.”

Analysts also told the Telegraph that some army factions felt Mr Khan had been too soft in his dealings with neighboring India, with which Pakistan has fought three major wars since its independence.

Meanwhile, the country is also enduring a crippling economic crisis, with inflation rates one of the highest in Asia. The prices of essential foodstuffs and fuel have increased by more than 15 per cent in one year.

Many lower and middle income Pakistanis are struggling to afford enough to eat and blame Mr Khan, accusing him of economic mismanagement. The wide-reaching impact of the crisis has facilitated Pakistan’s myriad of opposition parties to unite against Mr Khan.

The war in Ukraine is expected to push food and fuel prices up further while £4.5 billion of pledged financial relief from the International Monetary Fund is still under review.

“It’s a mixture of factors. Political mismanagement and economic problems, plus the opposition coming together while the military distances themselves from him a bit,” argues Gareth Price, Senior Research Fellow on the Asia Pacific Program at Chatham House.

Analysts say the vote, which is likely to take place a week on Monday, is too close to call.

“The opposition thinks it’s in the bag, that they’ve got enough votes to oust Mr Khan and there is good reason to believe that,” said Mr Kugelman.

“But, there are factors that play out that mean he could survive. The country’s Supreme Court could disqualify PTI politicians who have left the party from voting and there is likely to be a lot of negotiating in the next few days, he could win back some of his allies from him.

Mr Khan has reacted in a bullish manner to calls from the opposition to step down: “I will not resign, come what may,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

No Pakistani Prime Minister has ever completed their term in office.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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