The elimination of Imran Khan as prime minister he has set Pakistan on an uncertain political path, with his supporters taking to the streets in protest as the opposition prepares to install his replacement.
khan was shot down early Sunday morning after 174 lawmakers in the 342-seat National Assembly – some belonging to his party and coalition – voted on a no-confidence motion proposed by the opposition to remove him, two more than the simple majority required.
Khan is the first Pakistani prime minister to be kicked out of office for a no-confidence vote during a 13-hour parliamentary session that included repeated delays and lengthy speeches by lawmakers from his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.
On Sunday night, tens of thousands of Khan supporters marched in cities across Pakistan, waving large party flags and shouting slogans, after the end of the daily dawn-to-dusk fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The young men, who form the backbone of Khan’s supporters, dominated the crowd.
In the southern Arabian Sea port city of Karachi, more than 20,000 people shouted slogans promising Khan’s return to power.
In the capital, Islamabad, the lights of thousands of supporters lit up the night sky as Khan made his way through the crowd on top of a brightly colored truck.
“Never in our history have such spontaneous crowds come out in such numbers,” Khan posted on his Twitter account Sunday night.
Never in our history have crowds turned out so spontaneously and in such numbers, rejecting the imported government run by robbers. pic.twitter.com/YWrvD1u8MM
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) April 10, 2022
Fahd Husain, a columnist for Pakistan’s English-language Dawn newspaper, said that Imran Khan’s “political rise was fueled by a growing disillusionment of a large segment of the urban middle class with the traditional politics” of opposition parties, mainly the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. and the Pakistan People’s Party.
“The greater their disgust with stories of corruption and misrule, the more they gravitated towards Khan’s immaculate personality,” he told Al Jazeera.
Supporters of the cricket star turned politician he accused the United States of orchestrating his impeachment and his party left parliament shortly before the no-confidence motion.
Khan hung on for almost a week after a united opposition first tried to depose him. His impeachment came after days of drama and often scathing comments inside and outside parliament.
On Sunday, the 69-year-old politician reiterated accusations that a foreign conspiracy was behind the change in government.
“The fight for freedom begins again today,” Khan tweeted to his more than 15 million followers.
Khan has claimed that the United States worked behind the scenes to bring him down, allegedly because of Washington’s discontent with his independent foreign policy choices, which often favor China and Russia.
He has occasionally challenged the United States and stridently criticized its post-9/11 war on terror. Khan said the United States was deeply disturbed by his visit to Russia and his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24, the day the devastating war in Ukraine began.
The US State Department has denied his allegations.
Opposition prepares replacement
Khan’s ouster came amid his souring ties with the powerful military and an economy struggling with high inflation and a free-falling Pakistani rupee. The opposition has accused the Khan government of economic mismanagement.
Shehbaz Sharif heads the largest party in a diverse alliance of opposition factions that span the spectrum from the left to the radically religious.
Khan’s candidate for prime minister will be his foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
Former Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told reporters on Sunday about the plan to resign if his candidate does not win.
The speaker would be forced to accept those resignations that would necessitate by-elections in probably more than 100 seats. That could plunge the country into another crisis, as the electoral commission earlier said it would not be ready to hold elections until October.
Pakistan’s Election Commission, which oversees the polls, told the Supreme Court last week that it had yet to finish realigning constituencies according to the 2017 census results before the election could take place.
General elections in Pakistan are not scheduled before August 2023.
Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center, predicted a turbulent time for Pakistan.
“Khan’s defeat would also leave Pakistan in a bitterly partisan and divided place. He has not only intensified political rivalries, but has also challenged and alienated key entities such as the head of the Pakistani army and foreign office,” Kugelman said.
“It will take time for the country to recover, and the next few months will be politically turbulent.”