Pakistan vote on PM Khan’s impeachment delayed, uncertainty continues


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A shopkeeper tunes a television screen to watch Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech at his shop in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 31, 2022. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

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ISLAMABAD, April 9 (Reuters) – Pakistan’s parliament was abruptly suspended ahead of a scheduled vote to oust Prime Minister Imran Khan and had not reconvened as planned on Saturday as political uncertainty continued to grip the nuclear-armed country.

Members of Khan’s party had suggested on Friday that they would try to delay the vote as long as possible. The cricket star turned politician has vowed to “fight” every step to replace him, the latest twist in a crisis that threatened political and economic stability in the South Asian country of 220 million people. read more

Khan’s allies had blocked a similar vote of no confidence last Sunday, but the country’s Supreme Court ruled the move unconstitutional and ordered parliament to reconvene. read more

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Speaker Asad Qaiser, an ally of Khan, said the session would resume at 12:30 p.m. (0730 GMT), but an hour later there were no signs that parliament would meet again.

Before the suspension, opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif, who is expected to become prime minister if Khan is ousted, addressed the meeting and urged Qaiser to ensure the vote was carried out as a matter of priority.

The speaker said he would carry out the court order “in letter and spirit”.

Khan, 69, came to power in 2018 with the backing of the military but recently lost his parliamentary majority when allies left his coalition government. Opposition parties say he has failed to revive a COVID-19-ravaged economy or deliver on promises to make Pakistan a corruption-free, prosperous nation respected on the global stage.

The opposition and some analysts say Khan has argued with the military, a charge he and the military deny. The military has ruled the state for half of its 75-year post-colonial history, and no prime minister has served his full five-year term.

KHAN Swears NO ‘IMPORTED GOVERNMENT’

It was not clear how long Khan’s allies would try to delay the vote. Lawyer Salahuddin Ahmed, who had argued in court for the vote to go ahead, said he believed it should take place before midnight.

Khan, who enjoyed widespread popular support when he took office, said late on Friday that he was disappointed with the court’s ruling, but accepted it. He had called elections after the dissolution of parliament.

But he said he would not recognize any opposition government that would replace him.

“I will not accept an imported government,” he told the nation in a late-night speech, suggesting the move to oust him was part of a foreign conspiracy and calling for peaceful protests on Sunday. “I’m ready for a fight.”

Khan opposed the US-led intervention in Afghanistan and has developed relations with Russia since he became prime minister. He has accused the United States of supporting a plot to oust him, without providing evidence for his claim, which Washington has denied. read more

As the turmoil continued, the Pakistani rupee hit an all-time low on Thursday and foreign exchange reserves collapsed. The central bank raised its benchmark rate by 2.5 percentage points, the largest increase since 1996. read more

If Khan loses the no-confidence vote, the opposition will put forward a candidate for prime minister.

Sharif, the younger brother of three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, said after the court ruling that the opposition had nominated him to take the helm if Khan were ousted. read more

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Reporting by Asif Shahzad, Syed Raza Hassan and Gribran Naiyyar Peshimam in Islamabad; Written by Alasdair Pal; Editing by William Mallard

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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