Imran Khan: Pakistan PM on brink as confidence vote looms

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Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned that if he is ousted from power, he will not recognise an opposition government.

He was speaking ahead of a no-confidence vote in parliament on Saturday, which he is expected to lose.

Mr Khan said he accepted the Supreme Court decision that he must face the vote, but repeated claims the US is leading a conspiracy to remove him. He did not provide evidence.

Washington denies the accusations.

There were angry scenes between supporters and opponents of the prime minister as parliament met to debate the motion on Saturday.

The speaker adjourned proceedings for several hours before parliament reconvened at 14:30 local time (10:30 BST).

The BBC’s Secunder Kermani says the prime minister is widely regarded as having come to power with the help of Pakistan’s army, but now observers say they have fallen out.

During his Friday address, Mr Khan urged people to come out of their houses on Sunday to protest against the “foreign-funded drama”.

He added: “I will be there with you as I will never accept this foreign conspiracy against Pakistan.”

The leader of the opposition, Shehbaz Sharif, said the decision to go forward with a vote of no-confidence had “saved Pakistan and the constitution”.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered parliament to reassemble on Saturday morning, and it has.

But as of yet, there is no sign of the vote of no confidence taking place.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, known for his lengthy speeches at the best of times, has embarked on a meandering monologue, presumably attempting to delay the vote from happening.

He and Imran Khan’s other allies are doubling down on their allegation that the attempt to oust him is part of a US orchestrated conspiracy.

They cite a diplomatic cable from the Pakistani ambassador in Washington as proof, in which he reportedly said an American official had warned there would be “consequences” if Mr Khan remained prime minister because of his recent visit to Russia.

Mr Khan visited Moscow to meet President Vladimir Putin as Russia was launching the invasion of Ukraine, and he has previously criticised US foreign policy,

It’s not clear however, how long these delaying tactics in parliament can last. Other members of Mr Khan’s party have prepared posters reading “whoever is a friend of America is a traitor,” or attacking “turncoats” who have defected from their ranks.

Opposition leaders have reacted angrily to the tactics, thumping their desks and warning it would be contempt of court not to hold the vote.

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Saturday’s confidence vote comes after opposition lawmakers put forward a no-confidence motion to parliament last Sunday, in a bid to oust Mr Khan from power.

But parliament’s deputy speaker Qasim Suri – a member of Mr Khan’s political party – swiftly blocked the vote, saying it showed “foreign interference”. Mr Suri also said that it went against the constitution, which calls for loyalty to the state.

Mr Khan’s government went on to dissolve parliament and called for a snap election to be held.

This made several opposition members furious, with some accusing the prime minister of “treason” for blocking the vote.

Opposition figures submitted a petition to the Supreme Court to assess the situation.

On Thursday, Pakistan’s top court ruled that Mr Khan’s decision to stop the vote from going ahead was unconstitutional. It ordered that the no-confidence vote should go ahead again on Saturday, 9 April.

Opposition supporters celebrate outside the Supreme Court building after a court verdict in Islamabad on April 7, 2022. - Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan faces being booted from office at the weekend after the Supreme Court ruled on April 7 that parliament had been illegally dissolved and a no-confidence vote on his government must go ahead.

Mr Khan has repeatedly said that Pakistan’s opposition parties are working with foreign powers.

He claims that he is the target of a US-led conspiracy to remove him because of his refusal to stand with Washington on issues against Russian and China. The US said there was “no truth” in these allegations.

The expectation is that the former international cricket star,will lose Saturday’s no-confidence vote.

In the event that Mr Khan is ousted from power, the opposition parties will appoint a new prime minister who can hold power until October 2023, when a new election is scheduled to be held.

BBC Urdu reporter Abid Hussain says it is unclear what other options Mr Khan can exercise to avoid that outcome, unless he and his MPs decide to submit a resignation in an attempt to avoid the humiliation of a defeat.

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