Pakistan’s Imran Khan is behaving increasingly like Donald Trump

After holding most of South Asia in suspense for the past four days, the constitution of Pakistan was saved yesterday.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court yesterday dealt a severe blow to prime minister Imran Khan by unanimously ruling he had acted unconstitutionally by dissolving parliament before a confidence vote last week, which he was expected to lose. The bench ordered the vote to go ahead on 9 April.

Khan’s abrupt dissolution of parliament was a shocking assault on Pakistan’s democracy, and the Supreme Court has reasserted itself as the rightful custodian of the constitution. Chief justice Umar Ata Bandial said Khan had violated the law and noted that “assemblies cannot be dissolved while a vote of no confidence is pending against the prime minister.”

After the verdict, Khan tweeted: “I have always and will always continue to fight for Pak till the last ball,” and added he had called a meeting of his cabinet.

The verdict has managed to pull the country back from an imminent disaster, which the prime minister was willing to risk despite having other options. He could have gracefully accept the results of the no-confidence vote and put his energy into preparing for the elections. That would have garnered more respect for him even from his detractors of him and shown him to be a mature and responsible politician.

But Imran Khan is anything but a good loser, and his arrogance and self-aggrandisement pushed the country into a constitutional crisis and wreaked havoc on an already struggling economy. The political uncertainty during the past four days saw the value of the rupee plunge further and there are concerns about the adequacy of the country’s exchange reserves.

By declaring a “foreign conspiracy” against him he has put Pakistan’s foreign relations on the line, despite having yet to provide or share the details of his allegations. Anti-American feelings are easy to rile up in Pakistan because of past history.

His modus operandi was straight out of Donald Trump’s playbook. Like Trump, whose refusal to admit defeat led to his supporters of him attacking the Capitol building, Khan too threatened to have his supporters out on the streets if the opposition voted for no confidence.

Like Trump, Imran Khan has deeply divided the country. To his diehard supporters of him, he can do no wrong. The day the government of Pakistan subverted the constitution and democracy, his supporters of him were seen celebrating and mocking the opposition. Members from his party were seen hanging effigies of opposition members.

All this is more jarring when it is from someone who promised ridding the country of the very ills he is now perpetuating.

Imran Khan’s cult of personality, borne from his celebrity status as a cricketing star, has largely been responsible for his popularity. His promises of ridding the country of corruption and improving the economy and the lives of the average people sounded like music to many people’s ears. His rallying mantra of bringing in “a tsunami of change” has shown scant proof in the three and a half years of power.

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If Khan loses the confidence vote now, the opposition will nominate its own prime minister to serve until August 2023, when a general election will be held.

The Supreme Court’s decision is profoundly commendable, and sends a clear message about its independence as well as the need to protect and constitution of Pakistan.

Only time can tell if lessons have been learned. Although Khan has said that he will fight until “the last ball”, he would be better off sticking to the rules and not delivering a googly like the one last week. It would also be better for Pakistan and may also hold him in better stead during the next elections.

Sadia Khan is a London-based freelance writer

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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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