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Military and judges overthrow Imran Khan

Imran Khan, Khan, Pakistani, Supreme Court, Islamabad


Military and judges overthrow Imran Khan

Imran Khan has always been marked by pursuing a sovereign policy, not adhering to any automatic alignment. Writes Lucas Leiroz

Despite efforts to prevent a coup d’état, Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan was overthrown this Saturday, April 9, in a parliamentary motion of censure, after several days of political crisis in the country. The Speaker of the House, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, indicated that the motion of censure was passed, after having obtained a majority of 174 votes in a total of 342 seats. This ends one of the greatest periods of political stability in Pakistani history and gives continuity to a system in which no head of government has completed term since the country’s independence in 1947.

The Parliament has not yet indicated when it will designate Khan’s successor, but opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif is expected to lead the country from now on, given his strong support in congress. With this, it is possible that in the coming months there will be a reversal of the policies initiated by Khan during his term, both internally and externally. In practice, this means that there could be a wave of automatic alignment with the West, a change in position on the conflict in Ukraine and even a worsening of relations with India.

Recalling the origin of the current crisis, recently, after the attempt by parliamentarians to initiate a motion against Khan, the Prime Minister had asked the Pakistani president to dissolve the Parliament. The measure was taken to prevent a possible coup d’état and to safeguard order and national security. However, the Supreme Court declared the government’s action illegal last week and ordered the vote on the motion of censure. After the result of the vote, Khan was forced to resign.

The Court’s judges, when analyzing the case, completely ignored the evidence of foreign interference in Pakistani domestic politics pointed out by the former prime minister, who had claimed to have received from Pakistani diplomats in the US recorded conversations containing words that indicated an interest on the part of Washington’s officials in removing him from power in order to bring about changes in relations between both countries – in other words, to force Islamabad to assume an absolutely pro-Western international stance.

Despite being a very popular political leader, Khan has not been able to lead changes in the country’s political structure in the face of internal and external threats as he was pressured simultaneously by lawmakers, judges and military. Some Pakistani generals publicly denied the prime minister’s words, saying there was no evidence of American interference in internal affairs. Regardless of which side appears to be right or wrong in this discussion, it is important to remember that there is a strongly pro-Western faction among the the Pakistani military that advocates an alliance with the US to overcome the country’s security problems. The most likely scenario is that currently a large number of pro-Washington officers are occupying key leadership positions in the armed forces, generating pressure against the very government to which they should obey.

However, it is wrong to say that Khan “accepted” his defeat. His departure from the government was accompanied by the withdrawal of his supporters from the Pakistani Parliament in a symbolic gesture of non-recognition of the country’s current administration. Khan and his allies have made it clear that Islamabad is occupied by foreign forces and that they will not participate in a puppet government programmed to obey US orders in all matters. In this sense, it is also important to mention that Khan’s popularity seems to have increased in recent days. His “resignation” was perceived by the Pakistani people as a kind of “political martyrdom” and now a strong wave of protests is taking place in the main cities of the country, which indicates that the new government will start its term with great unpopularity and under a serious crisis of legitimacy.

It is still unclear how Khan will fight to return to power, but it is evident that he understood the maneuvers carried out by parliamentarians, judges, and generals as illegal and that he will strive to revert the scenario. Despite his allies being outside the country’s political structures, he has the support of the people and even of a portion of the armed forces – which are extremely polarized institutions in the country, having both supporters and opponents of Khan. So, in other words, he has resources to start a wave of power rivalry, claiming to be the legitimate prime minister or in fact facing the a new government using force. There are several analysis available on virtual channels claiming that the most likely scenario is that a civil war will start. Despite being a very sad scenario for the country, it is indeed a plausible possibility, depending on how thing will escalate in the coming days.

In fact, there is nothing new about this foreign interference in Islamabad. Parliamentary motions and lawsuits are commonly used by the US and its allies to overthrow legitimate governments without direct use of force. This is what is commonly called “lawfare”. Although Pakistan is an emerging and militarily strong power (even having nuclear weapons), it has a polarized and unstable political structure, which favors coup episodes. The fact that a portion of the military leaders support the alignment with Washington also facilitates coups, as this neutralizes the government’s right to mobilize military force in its favor.

Khan has always been marked by pursuing a sovereign policy, not adhering to any automatic alignment. His rapprochement with Russia materialized in his visit to Moscow in February and in his neutrality on the Ukrainian case seems to have been the peak for a process of Washington’s intolerance of this sovereigntist stance. The US demanded automatic alignment and now hopes to achieve that with a new government. Before that, however, they will have to face the enormous political pressure from Khan, who, even outside the government, accumulates strong popular support and is not willing to accept his defeat so easily.

Lucas Leiroz, researcher in Social Science sat the Rural Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; geopolitical consultant.

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Blitz’s Editorial Board is not responsible for the stories published under this byline. This includes editorials, news stories, letters to the editor, and multimedia features on BLiTZ

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