Imran Khan’s fall from grace

Imran Khan’s fall from grace

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In a landmark ruling, Pakistan’s top court has declared illegal the April 3rd act of the Imran Khan government to dissolve the National Assembly in order to prevent a vote of no confidence. The court’s decision is celebrated as a victory for rule of law and democracy. The National Assembly is now restored and it will proceed with the vote that will determine the fate of the prime minister. 
With most of his allies joining the opposition’s ranks, it is evident that Khan has lost the majority making his ouster imminent. A new government is likely to take over in the next few days. The development is the latest twist in Pakistan’s checkered politics. The court ruling may have ended the suspense that had gripped the country for the last five days after the prime minister’s reckless move, but the political crisis is far from over. 
A major question is whether a coalition of disparate parties that is most likely to replace the Khan government could bring political stability in the country and stem the economic slide. Ongoing political instability has caused a free fall of the Pakistani rupee against the dollar. 
The new administration which is expected to be led by Pakistan Muslim League-N will have to take tough measures to prevent an economic meltdown. The prevailing political polarization makes it extremely difficult for any government to deliver. Beside the two major political parties-- PML(N) and the PPP-- several other smaller groups are part of the coalition with their varying political agendas. 
Many analysts believe that elections are the only solution to the unfolding political crisis. But because of some institutional problems, elections cannot be held before the end of the year. The opposition leaders said that the new government needs to bring in some legislation to reform the election rules before going to the polls. 

Like in the past, the Supreme Court had to intervene to resolve a political issue that should have been dealt with by the parliament. The development further weakened an already fractured democratic process in the country. 

Zahid Hussain

What happened on April 3 was scripted. Just minutes before the vote, the deputy speaker of the National Assembly abruptly rejected the opposition’s no confidence motion as illegal on the basis of what he described as a “foreign conspiracy” and stopped the vote that would have decided whether Imran Khan remained in office or not. With the collapse of the ruling coalition and the large-scale defection from the party’s own ranks, it was evident that the government has lost the numbers’ game. 
With the looming threat of being voted out, the prime minister took an unprecedented step by dissolving the National Assembly and calling for early elections. It has been in blatant violation of the country’s constitution. Under the rule, the National Assembly cannot be dissolved during a no-confidence proceeding against the prime minister. 
The narrative of foreign interference in Pakistan’s internal political matters was built around a cable from a Pakistani diplomat, based on his conversations with certain American officials. The Khan government purposely exaggerated an informal, undiplomatic expression by an American diplomat to build a story that suited their political needs and tried to paint the opposition’s ‘wholly democratic’ move as some kind of foreign conspiracy.
What is more troubling is the Khan government using the ultra-nationalist card and declaring opposition leaders “foreign agents” and “traitors.” Such a campaign could prove to be extremely dangerous for the country and could harm Pakistan’s national interest now and in the future.
Khan’s April 3 move was a further demonstration of his contempt for parliament and the democratic process. His unconstitutional steps plunged the country into a constitutional crisis. Like in the past, the Supreme Court had to intervene to resolve a political issue that should have been dealt with by the parliament. The development further weakened an already fractured democratic process in the country. 
Imran Khan’s impending exit will mark the end of Pakistan’s experiment with a “hybrid rule.” His three and a half-year rule had been unique for many reasons, and his rise to power owed to Pakistan’s powerful military. 
Not only was he helped in the 2018 elections, but a coalition of disparate groups was built to provide his party with enough support in the parliament to form a government. It’s not surprising that Khan survived for that long despite a very thin majority. But despite the prop, his government struggled and failed to deliver on governance and economic management. His limited understanding of statecraft was apparent. 
Self-righteousness and the politics of religiosity did not help him deal with the worsening political and governance crises, and his government became increasingly authoritarian. It is evident that the government was floundering but no one expected it to completely unravel so quickly under the opposition’s onslaught. With the approach of the endgame, Imran Khan now has limited options. He has vowed to fight till the end, but the writing on the wall is clear. While he has lost the power game he is not willing to give up. 

- Zahid Hussain is an award-winning journalist and author. He is a former scholar at Woodrow Wilson Centre and a visiting fellow at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, and at the Stimson Center in DC. He is author of Frontline Pakistan: The struggle with Militant Islam and The Scorpion’s tail: The relentless rise of Islamic militants in Pakistan. Frontline Pakistan was the book of the year (2007) by the WSJ. His latest book ‘No-Win War’ was published this year.

Twitter: @hidhussain

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