Pakistan’s troubled prime minister ousted in no-confidence vote

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s political opposition ousted the country’s beleaguered prime minister in a vote of no confidence on Saturday, which it won after several Imran Khan allies and a key coalition party voted him down. abandoned.

The combined opposition that spans the political spectrum from leftist to radically religious will form the new government, with the leader of one of the largest parties, the Pakistan Muslim League, taking over as prime minister.

Anticipating his loss, Khan, who has accused his opposition of colluding with the United States to overthrow him, called on his supporters to hold rallies across the country on Sunday. Khan’s options are limited and if he sees a high turnout in his support, he may try to maintain the momentum of street protests as a way to pressure parliament into calling a snap election.

Earlier, Khan had tried to avoid the vote by dissolving parliament and calling a snap election, but a Supreme Court ruling ordered the vote to continue.

In an impassioned speech on Friday, Khan doubled down on his accusations that his opponents colluded with the United States to unseat him over his foreign policy choices, which often appeared to favor China and Russia and challenge the United States.

Khan said Washington objected to his February 24 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin hours after tanks arrived in Ukraine, sparking a devastating war in the heart of Europe.

The US State Department has denied any involvement in Pakistan’s domestic politics. On Friday, State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters there was “absolutely no truth to these allegations.”

Still, Khan urged his supporters to take to the streets, especially young people who have been the backbone of his support since the former cricketer star turned conservative Islamist politician came to power in 2018. He said that they should protect Pakistan’s sovereignty and oppose American dictates. .

“You have to come out to protect your own future. It is you who must protect your democracy, your sovereignty and your independence. … It is your duty,” he said. “I will not accept an imposed government.”

Khan’s options are limited and if he sees a strong turnout in favour, he may try to maintain the momentum of street protests as a way to pressure parliament to dissolve and go to a snap election. .

The loss of the vote of no confidence for Khan could bring unlikely partners to power.

Among them is a radically religious party that runs dozens of religious schools. The Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam, or Assembly of Clerics, teaches a deeply conservative form of Islam in its schools. Many Taliban from Afghanistan and violent Taliban of Pakistani descent have graduated from JUI schools.

The largest of the opposition parties – the Pakistan People’s Party, led by the son of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and the Pakistan Muslim League – have been marred by allegations of widespread corruption.

Pakistan Muslim League leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has been found guilty of corruption after being named in the so-called Panama Papers. This is a collection of leaked secret financial documents showing how some of the world’s richest are hiding their money and implicating a global law firm based in Panama. Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court of Pakistan from holding office.

If the opposition wins the vote of no confidence, it will be up to parliament to choose a new head of government, who could be Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif. If lawmakers fail, snap elections will be called.

Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed in Islamabad and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report. Follow Kathy Gannon on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Kathygannon

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