Pakistan has had 29 prime ministers since 1947 but none have completed a full five-year term.
Imran Khan was ousted as Pakistan’s prime minister on Sunday after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership. This came after days of constitutional and political turmoil that left him with no choice but to resign or be voted out of office.
The Pakistani parliament’s lower house met on Monday to vote for the opposition leader, Shehbaz Sharif to replace Khan. Sharif is the brother of the disgraced former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif.
Sharif is the leader of the main party in a broad coalition of opposition parties ranging from the left to the extremely religious.
This is the first ever successful no-confidence motion against a prime minister in Pakistan.
The no-confidence motion, which required 172 votes in the 342-seat parliament to pass, was backed by 174 politicians, according to Al-Jazeera.
The passing of the motion came following the country’s Supreme Court ruled that Khan acted “unconstitutionally in previously blocking the process and dissolving parliament.”
His critics accuse him of failing to revitalise the economy and combat widespread corruption, which he had previously promised to do during his electoral campaign.
The now former prime minister of Pakistan has alleged that the opposition “colluded” with the United States to dismiss his position and has called on his supporters to take their anger out on a nationwide rally.
Thank you to all Pakistanis for their amazing outpouring of support & emotions to protest against US-backed regime change abetted by local Mir Jafars to bring into power a coterie of pliable crooks all out on bail. Shows Pakistanis at home & abroad have emphatically rejected this
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) April 10, 2022
Many people still regard him as a “common man’s saviour” in his position as a cricketer, philanthropist, and politician.
Thousands of protestors marched in different cities across Pakistan in support of Imran Khan, while opposition party supporters celebrated outside the National Assembly after the top politician lost the motion.
Rallies nearly 2,000 km away from Pakistan
Hundreds of Pakistanis marched through Doha on Sunday to protest against the dismissal of Pakistan’s prime minister after he lost a no-confidence vote and expressed their solidarity with him.
Videos of massive crowds of Pakistanis rallying near the Business Park in Airport Street, hoisting flags and chanting slogans in support of Khan have gone viral on social media.
🎬 Watch this video as Pakistanis in Qatar take to the streets of Doha, expressing their support for Imran Khan.
🇵🇰 The former prime minister was dismissed after losing a no-confidence vote on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/pV2c1WWS52
— Doha News (@dohanews) April 11, 2022
Qatar was not the only Gulf city to see such protests, as Dubai, where the Pakistani community is one of the largest migrant groups, also saw Khan’s supporters take to the streets to show their support for him.
Marches in both countries were held accompanied by a large police presence as they are uncommon in Gulf states, particularly in the United Arab Emirates, where migrants who organise rallies have faced deportation in the past.
Imran Khan’s campaign promises
Saad, a Pakistani national in Qatar, told Doha News that it is “extremely obvious how all the state machinery was mobilised to get rid of one guy elected by the masses through a populist movement.”
“I felt the people rightfully voted for a prime minister they wanted to lead the country. The cause of him being ousted is completely baseless and flawed,” said Nawal, a Karachi native currently living in Qatar.
The now-former Pakistani Prime Minister’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which is centre-right, promised a “new” Pakistan, pledging to fight corruption, restore the crippled economy, and pursue an independent foreign policy.
Upon assuming his role as the prime minister, Khan found himself in a political predicament. From creating 10 million jobs to building an Islamic welfare state and restoring Pakistan’s tattered image abroad, he introduced his party’s “100 Day Plan” on July 25, 2018. Through it, he tackled six themes, mainly transforming governance, strengthening the federation, revitalising economic growth, uplifting agriculture and conserving water, revolutionising the social sector and ensuring national security.
Imran Khan who became Pakistan’s 19th prime minister in August 2018, was viewed by his supporters as a “clean man” on top. With him in power, to them, it translated into an entirely “clean machinery.”
Nawal believed that the former cricketer-turned-politician had done a lot for the country, but that there’s always room for improvement.
“The Covid-19 response in Pakistan was considered one of the best. We are progressing ahead with our climate plan. He also made health care affordable.”
“No government is perfect. He has his flaws too. He showed that being in his shoes is not easy, especially with the opposition always ready to attack him,” said Nawal.
Similarly, Saad, a Pakistani national living in Qatar agreed. “He did not fulfil his promises. See, Pakistan has been ruled by looting dictators and politicians for the past 60 years and to clean up the mess of 60 years in three years is impossible.”
Khan was praised by his supporters for cracking down on high-level corruption that seeped through the country’s political entities.
“Pakistan has been ruled by mainly two political parties. These parties label themselves political but in actuality are personal properties of specific families. They have been taking turns in ruling the country and completely destroyed it,” said Saad.
“He had built legitimate cases of corruption and money laundering against these political elites.”
Opposing those views is Hamza, a Pakistani belonging to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, currently living in Qatar where he told Doha News “I am against the ousting, but also not a supporter of Imran Khan and how he governed the country. He has been legitimising his government and stance based on populist rhetorics which has undermined the institutions and democratic process in the country.”
The disbelief in Khan’s campaign promises was explicit in some Pakistani nationals who chose to abstain from attending the protests in Qatar that were in support of the politician.
“I do not think Imran Khan and his government achieved a satisfactory level of success in delivering on the promises they made before coming in power despite enjoying public support and support from all branches of the government,” Hamza expressed.
“Gross violations of right of speech and media freedom, ill-thought out economic policies, foreign policy blunders, failure to select and retain capable persons for key posts marred the PTI’s 3.5 year rule.”
Feeling torn about the future of her country, Maryam, a Pakistani woman living in Qatar tells Doha News “Imran Khan severely damaged the fabric of my country, but the politicians that joined forces to oust him are corrupt, dynastic, and certainly care very little about the country. Imran Khan’s government inherited a terrible economy, but he made it even worse. The inflation in Pakistan is staggering. He played into the hand of religious extremist and militant groups like the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, and was sympathetic to the Taliban,” Maryam added.
Speaking on the topic of women in the country, Maryam said Pakistani women “experienced some of the worst years in the history of the country, and Imran Khan did little to condemn the violence taking place against women. Instead, he used extremely damaging victim blaming narratives that perpetuated and encouraged this violence.”
Dismissing his promises as merely “smoke and mirrors,” Maryam told Doha News “he folded and bowed down to terrorists in difficult situations, and built a facade of a glorious Islamic empire with him a Ghazi while bringing the country’s economy to its knees. It really is a shame.”
Imran Khan’s foreign intervention claims
Prior to his successful no-confidence vote, Khan said that the United States had allegedly sent him a threatening letter.
Similarly, his supporters claim that the government change was influenced and funded by the Americans.
“If the vote of no-confidence succeeds, we will forgive you,” he claimed the letter read. “If it does not succeed, and Imran Khan remains the prime minister, then Pakistan will be in a difficult situation.”
“I never wanted to be a slave to any country,” Khan stated in his address. “When I came to power I decided we will have an independent foreign policy.”
The US administration has unequivocally denied any role in the no-confidence vote, dismissing the allegations as “baseless.”
“There was definitely a foreign hand in orchestrating this. By foreign I mean the Americans mainly,” Saad told Doha News.
He labelled Khan’s ousting as “a repetition of history” in reference to 1977, when former Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto made such accusations official. He said the CIA financed opposition groups in response to Pakistan’s nuclear program and Bhutto’s purportedly non aligned foreign policy positions, such as his refusal to support the Vietnam War.
During the Cold War, Bhutto’s foreign policy had moved towards non-alignment and away from adherence to the United States.
Similarly, Khan turned to an invigorated Moscow-Beijing axis, which is steadily asserting its influence.
His geopolitical shift came following the US leaving Afghanistan and building closer ties with India. While Pakistan and China have a long-standing strategic connection, and its relationship with Russia was also starting to take off.
Contrary to such opinion, Hamza told Doha News that “it is a conveniently thought out strategy to cover the incompetency of Imran Khan’s government and failure of delivery on the main promises they made before coming into power.”
The strategy behind claiming the US has intervened in Khan’s ousting “is also being hatched at a crucial time as the country is soon moving towards another election, and Imran Khan’s party needs another populist slogan to rally the crowds as is now being observed not only in Pakistan, but other countries as well,” Hamza argued.
Finally noting his opinion regarding what he thinks the actual reasonings behind Khan’s removal are “a lack of consensus-building between Imran Khan and other political forces, the weakening of mutual trust between establishment and Khan, and to a certain degree, failure of his government’s policies on many fronts.”
By “establishment,” in Pakistan’s context, Hamza is referring to the deep state cooperative federation of the Pakistan Armed Forces, the Pakistani intelligence community and other pro-military government officials and civilians.
Legality of protests in Qatar
Qatar’s law no 18 of 2004 on Public Meetings and Demonstrations and as stated in the Article no 44 of the Qatari Constitution of 2004, explains the “right of the citizens to assemble is guaranteed in accordance with the provisions of the law.”
“No convening, organisation, invitation, announcement or coverage of news on any public meeting shall take place without obtaining a licence therefor under this Law,” the law’s Article 3 stated.
Demonstrators in Qatar told Doha News that the relevant authorities have obtained the permits to perform demonstrations in the Gulf country, for a limited time.