Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan lost the no-confidence vote against him in the Pakistan National Assembly in early hours of Sunday, 10 April, thus becoming the first Prime Minister in the nation to be removed through a constitutional process. He is the 22nd Pakistan Prime Minister who was unable to complete a full five-year term.
On Sunday, 174 Opposition lawmakers voted to oust Imran Khan in the Assembly, making him the first PM in the country's history to be 'voted' out of power and not be 'overthrown' by the military.
Opposition parties, like the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, had sponsored the no-confidence vote against Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and were supported by several members of the PTI, who rose in a rebellion against Khan.
The Opposition had claimed that Khan failed to steer the country out of a deep-rooted economic crisis and check inflation, which had soared to 13 percent in January this year.
Induction Into Politics
Khan retired from international cricket after the 1992 World Cup final between Pakistan and England.
He then threw himself into philanthropic ventures, raising funds for humanitarian causes, and even opened a cancer hospital that provided free treatment to underprivileged sections of society.
In 1996, Khan formed the PTI and began his active involvement in politics, but remained overshadowed by elite political personalities at the time, like former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto.
His political fortunes, however, began to change when he initiated a campaign for 'Naya Pakistan' in 2013 in the backdrop of corruption allegations against the ruling gentry.
It was this campaign that struck a chord with Pakistanis and led to Khan's political ascendance in the 2018 general election – 22 years after he joined politics.
Khan's Campaign in 2018
Khan was declared the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan on 18 August, 2018, after the PTI emerged as the largest party with 116 seats in the National Assembly, making it a new entrant into the country's national political scenario alongside traditional parties, like the PML and the PPP.
Former PM Nawaz Sharif's disqualification as Pakistan's prime minister in 2017 after the publication of the Panama Papers, which alleged that he had stashed wealth abroad through shell companies, as well as his conviction by an anti-corruption court and jail sentence of 10 years, enabled Khan's PTI to gain the upper hand in an evidently-populist mandate.
Apart from his flamboyant status among Pakistanis and a successful career as one of the country's best cricket team captains, Khan's anti-corruption campaign that promised to rid the country of its financial woes and provide jobs to the thousands of unemployed youth in the country also helped to catapult the cricketer-turned-politician to the PM's chair.
However, these very promises seem to have led to Khan's downfall.
Pakistan's Balance of Payments Crisis
After being elected in 2018, Khan's government inherited a balance of payments crisis in Pakistan and a high debt burden. By the end of 2018, the country was staring at a current account deficit of $18 billion – a 45 percent increase from the previous year, as per a report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The crisis was created by a heavy dependence on imports. The high spending by Pakistan on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) created a massive debt burden on the country along with financial dependence on China.
Despite optimism that Khan's government would be able to solve the country's financial woes, the PTI-led administration seems to have floundered since 2018.
Notwithstanding the announcement of a $6 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2021, there seems to have been no change in the heavy financial burden faced by the country, particularly by the poor, who have been strongly impacted by rising prices of fuel, electricity, and essential commodities.
Relations With the Military
When he came to power in 2018, Khan was considered close to the country's all-powerful military. His political ascendance was believed to have been brought about by the military's backing, which seems to have eroded over the course of his tenue.
Khan lost support from the military brass due to his alleged interference in internal matters of the armed forces – something that Pakistan's army has never tolerated from elected leaders.
Problems between Khan and the military establishment came to light last year, when the former asserted that he wanted Lt General Faiz Hameed to continue as the director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the spy agency of Pakistan.
This led to a tussle between the prime minister and Pakistan's army chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Hameed was considered close to Khan, and allegations were rife that the former had actually helped Khan win the election in 2018 by "manipulating" the polls, as per a report by The New York Times.
Khan, however, was unable to defeat the might of the military, as Lt General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum was promoted to the post.
Ties With India
Despite optimism in 2018 that a new government in Pakistan would restart a peaceful dialogue with India, there seems to have been only rhetoric, and no concrete steps taken in this regard.
Khan has been a bitter critic of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP's) style of governance, and its ties with the Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which Khan looks upon as being "anti-Muslim."
He has also maintained the long-standing position of his country with regard to Kashmir, and slammed India for its withdrawal of the former state's special status through the revocation of Article 370 in August 2019, leading to a complete decimation of trade ties between the two nations since then.
Perhaps, the greatest achievement between the two nations during Khan's tenure was the operationalisation of the Kartarpur Corridor to connect the Dera Baba Nanak Gurudwara in India and the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan to facilitate pilgrims from both side to visit the revered shrines.
Khan, however, seems to have extended an olive branch to India recently when he praised the country's foreign policy. "I salute our neighbouring country India for always maintaining an independent foreign policy," Khan was heard saying during a rally in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.