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Pakistan: Imran Khan defiant ahead of no-confidence vote

April 2, 2022

The Pakistani leader continues to assert that the US is behind an attempt to remove him. Meanwhile, a Pakistani general said his country should expand ties with Washington.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan
Khan, a former international cricket star, became prime minister in 2018Image: Akhtar Soomro/File Photo/REUTERS

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan lashed out at the United States on Saturday, claiming an attempt to oust him from power is backed by Washington.

Khan faces a no-confidence vote on Sunday, which could end his four-year reign as Pakistan's leader. 

"The move to oust me is (a) blatant interference in domestic politics by the United States," Khan told a group of foreign reporters, which he said was an attempt at "regime change."

The prime minister claimed the US had been conspiring against him since he visited Moscow and met with President Vladimir Putin as Russia's invasion of Ukraine got underway.

The White House denied that Washington is seeking to remove Khan from power.

However, the government later announced a special commission would investigate the purported foreign conspiracy.

Later Saturday, Khan called on his supporters to stage rallies ahead of the vote.

"I want you all to protest for an independent and free Pakistan," he said during a public question and answer phone-in broadcast by state media.

Khan may not accept vote outcome

Khan also said he might not accept the result of the confidence vote.

"How can I accept the result when the entire process is discredited?" he told foreign journalists. "Democracy functions on moral authority — what moral authority is left after this connivance?"

Khan would be required to step down if 172 members of the 342-member House voted against him. 

If he goes, the Pakistan Muslim League-N's (PML-N) Shehbaz Sharif is tipped to become the next prime minister.

But on Saturday the government moved to have him sent back to jail to await trial on money-laundering charges that have been pending since 2020.

Pakistan's salt collectors scrape out a tough living

Key allies quit Khan's coalition

Khan has already lost his parliamentary majority after key allies quit his coalition government and joined the opposition.

Opposition parties say Khan has failed to reignite Pakistan's economy following the COVID-19.

They say promises to make his administration more transparent and accountable have not been realized.

His ouster would mean no prime minister has ever completed a term in Pakistan's 75-year history, marred by frequent coups by powerful generals.

The military is also said to have now withdrawn its support, putting Khan's government on shaky ground.

Military chief wants closer US ties

Also on Saturday, a top Pakistani general said his country should seek deeper ties with the US. 

"We share a long history of excellent and strategic relationship with the United States, which remains our largest export market," Pakistani General Qamar Javed Bajwa said during a security conference in Islamabad.

China's Afghanistan ambitions

Bajwa also said Pakistan shares a strong relationship with China.

"We seek to expand and broaden our ties with both countries without impacting our relations with the other," Bajwa continued, referring to relations with both Beijing and Washington.     

mm/wd (AP, Reuters)