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New Delhi: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted early on Sunday, April 10, when he lost a vote of confidence in parliament, after being deserted by coalition partners who blame him for a crumbling economy and failure to deliver on his campaign promises.
Candidates for Pakistan’s next prime minister are due to file nomination papers on Sunday, with reports calling Nawaz Sharif’s brother Shehbaz a frontrunner.
The result of the vote, which was the culmination of a 13-hour session that included repeated delays, was announced just before 1 am, Pakistan time, by the presiding speaker of parliament’s lower house, Ayaz Sadiq.
“And thus, in the early hours of Constitution Day, the PTI government fell not with a bang, but a whimper in the dead of the night,” the DAWN newspaper’s editorial read.
Khan, 69 was ousted after three-and-half years as leader of the nuclear-armed country of 220 million, where the military has ruled for nearly half its nearly 75-year history.
Parliament will meet on Monday to elect the new prime minister.
Sunday’s vote followed multiple adjournments in the chamber, called due to lengthy speeches by members of Khan’s party, who said there was a US conspiracy to oust the cricket star-turned-politician.
Opposition parties were able to secure 174 votes in the 342-member house in support of the no-confidence motion, Sadiq said, making it a majority vote.
“Consequently the motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan has been passed,” he said to the thumping of desks in the chamber. Khan, who was not present for the vote, had no immediate comment.
Just a few legislators of Khan’s ruling party – Tehreek-i-Insaf – were present for the vote.
The house voted after the country’s powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa met Khan, said two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, as criticism mounted over the delay in the parliamentary process.
Khan’s ouster extends Pakistan’s unenviable record for political instability: no prime minister has completed their full term since independence from Britain in 1947, although Khan is the first to be removed through a no-confidence vote.
He surged to power in 2018 with the military’s support, but recently lost his parliamentary majority when allies quit Khan’s coalition government.
Shehbaz Sharif emerges frontrunner
The front-runner to become Pakistan’s next prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, said Khan’s departure was a chance for a new beginning.
“A new dawn has started … This alliance will rebuild Pakistan,” Sharif, 70, told parliament on Sunday.
Sharif, the younger brother of three-time prime ministerNawaz Sharif, was for years chief minister of Punjab province and has a reputation as an effective administrator.
His first tasks will be to repair relations with the powerful military as well as key ally the United States, and tend to a stuttering economy.
Parliamentary elections are not due until August 2023. However, the opposition has said it wants early elections, but only after it delivered a political defeat to Khan and passes legislation it says is required to ensure the next polls are free and fair.
The military viewed Khan and his conservative agenda favourably when he won election in 2018, but that support waned after a falling-out over the appointment of the influential military intelligence chief and economic troubles that led to the largest interest rate rise in decades this week.
Khan had antagonised the United States throughout his tenure, welcoming the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last year and more recently accusing the United States of being behind the attempt to oust him. Washington dismissed the accusation.
(With agency inputs)