Editor’s note, April 10: Imran Khan, on Sunday, won a vote of no-confidence in the Pakistani parliament, and lost his position as prime minister. A vote on a new prime minister is expected on Monday.
One of Pakistan’s dual crises was resolved this week. The other, not so much.
On Thursday, the country’s Supreme Court issued a Historic judgment Which resolved the constitutional crisis that emerged last week. The court reprimanded Prime Minister Imran Khan, the self-made populist leader and former cricket star who is more famous than a statesman. The court ruled that Khan acted unconstitutionally when he dissolved Pakistan’s parliament last week to avoid losing power through a vote of no confidence.
Experts in the country’s politics said it was a surprising and reassuring decision, given the checkered record of the Supreme Court as a political ally of Khan at one point. On Thursday, the court sided with the rule of law.
But the fundamental political crisis that led to the court’s landmark order remains.
Khan strangely blamed the opposition parties’ efforts to oust him on a US-led foreign plot. Now, parliament has been restored and will continue to vote of no confidence in Khan’s premiership on Saturday, which will likely lead to his ouster and an extraordinary election later this year. Khan, for his part, said that “fight” Back.
However, the broader political crisis can be traced back to the 2018 elections that brought Khan to power. Traditionally, the military is the most important institution in Pakistan, and it has often intervened to overthrow elected leaders who stand in its way. Khan’s rise is inseparable from the military influence on politicsThe current Prime Minister accused the army of committing a soft blow to manipulate the elections in Khan’s favour.
It was a “very controversial election,” says Esfandyar Mir, a researcher at the United States Institute of Peace. “There was a major question about the legitimacy of that electoral process, and the government formed by Khan could not escape the shadow of the controversy surrounding that election,” Mir explained.
Recently, the relationship between the army and Khan worsened, which gave the political opposition an opportunity to work against him. Although the role the military played in the Supreme Court ruling is not known, experts note that the harshness of the court order indicates the military’s acceptance. “This is part of a larger history of instability in Pakistan where prime ministers are ousted from power, because they lose the support of the Pakistani military,” Madiha Afzal, a foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Vox.
But, she says, “even if the court was influenced by the military, it made the right decision.”
Khan’s weak position internally
The political and economic situation paved the way for Khan’s challenge.
After running a campaign that promised less corruption and more economic opportunities for the poor, Khan did Failed to reach. Inflation is on the riseAnd Unemployment is on the riseAnd billion dollar program From the International Monetary Fund did not help stabilize things. International investigation into foreign funds last year, commonly known as pandora leavesthat Khan’s inner circle moved money abroad to avoid taxes, inconsistent with Khan’s populist rhetoric.
Khan presided over the fight against corruption witch hunting Targeting opposition parties. Indeed, the opposition parties, many of which consist of dynastic chiefs and old-money families, are corruptMir said their attempt to oust Khan could be seen as a move to evade further scrutiny.
However, anti-corruption efforts brought government bureaucracy to a halt. This is part of Khan’s broader approach to strongman rule inactive.
From his start in politics, Khan relied on the courts. Yasir Qureshi, a scholar of constitutional law at Oxford University, says Khan built his political standing on the support of the judiciary. “Imran Khan’s political platform is built around an anti-corruption populist, accusing the political class of corruption, and in the past fifteen years, the Supreme Court has been in a wave of jurisprudence targeting the political corruption of Pakistan’s traditional parties,” he explains. Khan was the biggest supporter of this jurisprudence because it approved and legitimized his policy.
Now, the court appears to have turned against him at a time when the army has also lost faith in Khan. “With Imran Khan, I think his problem is that at the moment, he doesn’t really have institutional solutions that he can turn to,” says Kureshi.
Also, Khan’s relationship with the United States was broken
Pakistan is a nuclear-armed country with a population of 220 million. built Sixth largest army in the world, and has influence as a leader in the Islamic world. Pakistan, which has long been a participant in the US war on terror, is also a partner in conflict and has been criticized at times. Taliban incitement.
Khan was elected in 2018, and Mir says that after two years, the military’s relationship with him began to cool down. Khan runner With the army chief on foreign policy issues, the military saw Khan’s poor rule as a burden. Last year, Khan’s delay resulted in the signing of a new intelligence chief speculation More divisions between the two.
President Joe Biden did not do that Khan phoned in his early days in office, even though he did call the leader of indiaPakistan’s main competitor. “The cold Biden administration dealt with Imran Khan the wrong way,” Afzal said. “Pakistan has just fallen a bit off the radar in regards to the high-profile engagement.”
Khan’s public messages as a strongman were partly responsible for sparking the relationship with the United States – and thus his relationship with the Pakistan Army, which wants to be closer to the United States.
Recently, this cold was expressed by Khan’s decision stay neutral Russia’s war on Ukraine. Khan visited Moscow just before the Russian invasion.
Now it turns to accusations of conspiracy: the position of the opposition against him is made by the United States. The origins of Khan’s incendiary allegations appear to be a Diplomatic telegram He was sent home by Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington last month after a meeting with a senior State Department official, Donald Law. what ever Criticisms that may have been conveyed In terms of Pakistani foreign policy, Khan’s interpretation of the memo is clearly exaggerated. “When it comes to these allegations, they have no validity,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said last week.
It is an open question whether his argument will resonate with the US skeptical Pakistani public. One group likely won’t resonate: the powerful Pakistan Army.
Shamila Choudhury, an expert at the Center for a New America think-tank, said Khan is “so critical of the United States that the military is uncomfortable.” “The way he talks about the United States prevents the United States’ relationship with Pakistan from being repaired, and it needs reform.”
Meanwhile, the Biden administration’s focus in Asia has been on great power competition with China and two national security crises (the withdrawal of Afghanistan and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine). According to Chaudhry, the impolite withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan has reinforced the disconnect between Washington and Islamabad, and further irritated the Pakistani government.
Robin Raffel, a former ambassador who served as a senior South Asian official in the State Department from 1993 to 1997, described Biden’s view of Pakistan as an “asymmetric approach.”
“I’m diplomatic,” she said, “and I think you get more honey than vinegar.” “It was worth more than the president taking five minutes to call Imran Khan.”
The United States sent the State Department’s human rights official, Ozera Zia, to the summit of the Organization of Islamic States in Pakistan last month. Zia also met with the country’s foreign minister and senior officials, as the two countries celebrated the 75th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations.
But there was nothing more than that in terms of the positive message of the US-Pakistan relationship in light of the recent political and constitutional crises in the country. Price’s recent comments on the situation were brief: “We support the constitutional process in Pakistan and the rule of law.”
what happened after that
Once Parliament completes a vote of no-confidence, which could happen as soon as today, it will dissolve the government. The country’s electoral commission will then oversee the caretaker government, which is likely to be headed by the opposition leader, Shahbaz Sharif. (Sharif brother Nawaz Sharifthe former Prime Minister himself, who is currently living in exile in the United Kingdom where he faces corruption charges.) And in this upcoming vote, she will You will most likely lose.
But even the details of that election are controversial. Khan had asked the Electoral Commission to set a date within the next 90 days; Opposition politicians NPR . said That reforms are necessary before the next vote, otherwise they say the army will “visit” the next election.
In the long run, things are less clear. Among the civil society leaders in Pakistan, there is agreement that the ruling of the Supreme Court is good for constitutionality. But it could also be a way to further expand the judiciary’s ability to intervene in politics.
Krishi, an expert on Pakistani courts and how they are increasingly becoming the arbiters of politics in the country, says fast food will not be fully understood until the court issues the full text of its ruling in the next month or so. This detailed order may set other legal precedents, and even cast the opposition in a bad light.
After the immediate euphoria of keeping Khan’s audacious, unconstitutional maneuver in check, this ruling may say a lot about how the court sees itself, particularly its oversight role over Parliament and the prime minister.
“Elected institutions are severely constrained by the tutelage of unelected institutions with excessive powers, be it the military, historically, or more recently the judiciary,” Korichi said. “Provisions like this give them an opportunity to assert and expand this role.”