Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s future looked increasingly in doubt today after a key coalition partner switched allegiance ahead of a parliamentary no-confidence vote that could be held as early as this weekend. “Imran Khan is a player who fights till the last ball. There will not be a resignation. There will be a match, both friends and foes will watch it,” tweeted Pakistan Minister Fawad Chaudhry. No Prime Minister in Pakistan’s history has seen out a full term, and Mr Khan is facing the biggest challenge to his rule since being elected in 2018, with opponents accusing him of economic mismanagement and foreign-policy bungling. Debate on the no-confidence motion is due to start on Thursday, leaving Mr Khan scrambling to keep his own Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) members on side — as well as a slew of minority parties.
Here are the live updates on Imran Khan:
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Imran Khan no-trust vote: How does no-confidence vote work
Under the Pakistan Constitution, a Prime Minister is elected by a majority of the lower house National Assembly, which has 342 members. A candidate needs a majority of legislators, 172, to vote for him to become Prime Minister. That is the same number of votes against him in a no-confidence vote needed to oust him and dissolve his cabinet. So Mr Khan could survive a no-confidence vote even if he got fewer votes than the opposition but only if the latter did not get the 172 votes that make up a majority in the 342-seat house.
One card up Imran Khan’s sleeve would be to call an early election — the next one must be held before October 2023. “The best option in this situation would have been fresh elections to enable the new government to handle economic, political and external problems faced by the country,” said political analyst Talat Masood, a retired general.
If Imran Khan loses the vote, a new government could be headed by PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif, the brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has not returned since being released from jail in 2021 to get medical treatment abroad. Also given a senior role will likely be the PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and ex-President Asif Zardari.
“Imran Khan is a player who fights till the last ball. There will not be a resignation. There will be a match, both friends and foes will watch it,” tweets Pakistan Minister Fawad Chaudhry.
Imran Khan no-trust vote: Losing military’s support
Some analysts say Imran Khan has also lost the crucial support of the military — claims both sides deny — and Pakistan’s army is key to political power. There have been four military coups — and at least as many unsuccessful ones — since Pakistan’s independence in 1947, and the country has spent more than three decades under army rule.
Imran Khan no-trust vote: Feuding dynasties
The PML-N and PPP dominated national politics for decades until Imran Khan forged a coalition against the usually feuding dynastic groups. He was elected after promising to sweep away decades of entrenched corruption and cronyism, but has struggled to maintain support with inflation skyrocketing, a feeble rupee and crippling debt.
“Details will be announced”
Senior MQM-P leader Faisal Subzwari tweeted Wednesday that his party had finalised an agreement with the opposition, led by the Pakistan People Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N). “Details will be formally announced today,” he said.
In the past
In the past, Pakistan parties have also resorted to physically preventing lawmakers from voting against key legislation by blocking access to the national assembly, leading to cat-and-mouse chases and even accusations of kidnapping.
What could happen
More than a dozen PTI lawmakers have also indicated they will cross the floor, although party leaders are trying to get the courts to prevent them from voting.
On paper, Imran Khan’s PTI and coalition partners have 176 seats in the 342-member assembly, but on Wednesday the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM-P) said its seven lawmakers would vote with the opposition, which has a combined 163 seats.