Pakistan opposition calls on PM Khan to quit ahead of vote to oust him

FILE PHOTO: Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a joint news conference with Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (not pictured) in Putrajaya
FILE PHOTO: Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a joint news conference with Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (not pictured) in Putrajaya, Malaysia, February 4, 2020. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/File Photo

March 31, 2022

By Asif Shahzad and Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -Pakistan’s opposition on Thursday called on Prime Minister Imran Khan to resign ahead of a parliamentary vote which could see the former cricket star ousted and the return of political uncertainty in the nuclear-armed country.

Khan, 69, has been facing mounting criticism of his performance, including his management of an economy beset by high inflation and rising deficits, and he lost his majority in parliament on Wednesday when a main ally quit his coalition.

“We want to send Imran Khan a message that there is no safe passage for you,” opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, told reporters at parliament.

“I want to give you a suggestion that you take an honourable exit, and an honourable exit is that you resign today and let the opposition leader take oath of the leader of the house.”

Khan is due to address the nation on Thursday, while parliament votes on whether to remove him as prime minister on Sunday at 11.30 a.m. (0630 GMT).

“The prime minister is as good as gone,” the influential English-language Dawn newspaper said in an editorial on the front page of its website on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Khan’s main parliamentary ally, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), abandoned his coalition and threw its lot in with the opposition seeking to oust him.

Opposition leaders had called on Khan to resign even before he lost his majority in parliament, but his aides have said he will not quit.

Khan’s ouster could mean another round of instability in a country in which the military has a long record of intervening in politics and no prime minister has ever completed a full five-year term.

Political analysts said Khan enjoyed the support of the military when he won an election to become prime minister in 2018 but he later lost the generals’ favour over various wrangles.

Khan has denied ever having the backing of the military and the military, which has ruled Pakistan for about half its history, denies involvement in civilian politics.

(Reporting by Asif Shahzad and Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam in IslamabadWriting by Alasdair PalEditing by Robert Birsel)