To Be or Not To Be, Pakistan’s Ex-Prime Minister Fights to Stay in Power

Written by: Rahman

Edited by: Noor

Visual by: Nicholas

On April 9th 2022, Imran Khan’s term as Prime Minister of Pakistan was brought to an abrupt end. The opposition had strategically planned and motioned for a vote of no confidence a week prior, citing the economic crisis in the country amongst other political shortcomings. The Prime Minister moved to dissolve parliament in a desperate attempt to cling onto power, yet the supreme court later ruled that this decision was unconstitutional, ousting him from his seat and handing power to the head of the opposition, Shebaz Sharif, the brother of Khan’s long running political rival, Nawaz Sharif. Despite his ousting, Imran Khan isn’t going down without a fight. This was made clear, before attempting to dissolve parliament when he said “I will fight to the end. I have never accepted defeat in my life.” In a last-ditch effort to take back power, Khan has called upon all his followers to participate in a march in Islamabad, the capital. 

Imran Khan’s short term as Pakistan’s PM has left the economy in shambles with rising inflation and unemployment impacting the very poorest of the country. With only 2 months  of cash reserves remaining, importing foreign goods is becoming increasingly difficult. The once wheat exporting nation is now forced to import wheat at record high prices due to the war in Ukraine. The vast majority of Pakistan’s lifesaving medicines are also imported and this is creating a healthcare crisis.

Imran Khan, like all Pakistani leaders before him, rose  to power on the backs of the military, the ever-present kingmaker of Pakistani politics, repeatedly accused of rigging elections and meddling in political affairs. Despite this familiar path into power his campaign was different. Being independent of the two political dynasties, the Bhuttos and the Sharifs, Khan claimed he would introduce a different kind of governance system in Pakistan. His main objective was ending corruption, a crime which he, on numerous occasions, accused leaders from the Sharif and Bhutto families of doing. Khan also promised a “New Pakistan”, a country no longer reliant on the foreign powers which it’s allied with for most of its history. Khan said he wouldn’t allow the country to sink deeper into debt but soon backtracked by asking for further IMF loans when stuck in trying economic situations.  

It is clear to see that Khan failed in his quest to become the new kid on the block in Pakistani politics and fell into the same potholes as his predecessors. In an attempt to become less  reliant on western allies who had been little help economically and militarily, he pivoted his attention towards Russia and China. Khan  vehemently claims that his removal was a foreign conspiracy meant to oust a strong nationalistic leader so that outside forces could maintain their grip on the country. As we have seen with various other world leaders, Khan and his party wield a massive internet presence that updates voters on the party’s beliefs on a recurring basis. The followers of Imran Khan’s party, PTI, were quick to take his word and have gathered in protests, some of which have turned into riots. Soon Khan would find himself directly calling for a unified march on the capital city. 

No one on the outside can know for certain whether foreign intervention really did take place. On one hand it would not be the US’s first time intervening in the governance of a developing country, let alone it’s first time intervening in Pakistan. On the other hand it’s entirely possible that the military and opposition parties did partner to oust him themselves. Either way Imran Khan has left the country in a worse state than the one he found it in, with both an economic crisis and bountiful tensions in foreign affairs. The instability and  uncertainty caused by his refusal to give up power as well as his protests and riots across the country have ensured that foreign investors will remain wary of the country and its politically unstable climate. 

In conclusion, Imran Khan has not only failed the people of Pakistan but the governmental  system too. He has lost the trust of both his foreign and local allies. The latest events in Pakistan are another sign that global democracy is at risk. In democracies around the world the line between the elected leader and populist dictator is increasingly becoming blurred. For Pakistan the penny drops in the coming election where its ability to hold a free election and peaceful transition of power will be tested. Whatever happens going forward, Pakistan, its politicians and its governmental systems must make sure that all subsequent actions and events are in the best interest of the country as a whole rather than the best interest of  individuals and their pursuit of power.