The Platform

Imran Khan, Pakistan's former prime minister. (Awais khan/Shutterstock)

It wasn’t a foreign plot that took down Imran Khan, but his own hubris.

The unprecedented political drama finally concluded with a successful vote of no-confidence in the lower house of Pakistan. Last Saturday, the National Assembly of Pakistan ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan in a late-night vote.

After an entire day full of dilatory tactics and backstage negotiations, the opposition bloc ultimately cobbled together 174 members to vote in favour of the resolution – two more than the required 172 vote threshold. Sudden resignations from both the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly allowed former Speaker Ayaz Sadiq – a senior leader of PML-N – to chair the session and complete the voting on the tabled resolution.

Imran Khan allegedly tried his best to convince the venerable institutions of Pakistan over his narrative of a foreign conspiracy against his regime. But he ended up making a mockery of the judiciary and the parliament. In his tenure of 3 years and eight months, Khan remained a headline figure. Whether it was the incendiary Kashmir issue or his visit to the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Nonetheless, his animated strategy to blame the United States for his political failures backfired as soon as he waved the supposed letter at a political rally.

Believe me! I am one of the most vocal critics of U.S. foreign policy. And I don’t deny that the U.S. has a checkered past when it comes to meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign nations around the globe. Numerous examples come to mind – from Vietnam to Afghanistan to Iraq to Syria; the list goes on. However, the rhetoric of Imran Khan seems vague to begin with, while the rationale of a diplomatic threat appears overly exaggerated.

Imran Khan has been impartial to the United States since he took office as prime minister in 2018. He was the middle-man in the Doha Agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban. While he allegedly denied the Pentagon from setting military bases in Pakistan, he served as a pivotal figure to ensure a transition of power to the Taliban regime. Imran Khan has preferred to maintain close ties with China – much to the chagrin of the Biden administration. However, the preceding government inaugurated the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – a crucial framework part of the broader Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Thus, Imran Khan has not taken any controversial steps to irk the U.S. enough to trigger a regime change operation.

He recently cited his visit to Moscow as a possible point of contention. Yet, he skipped over economic chaos orchestrated by his regime – the actual impetus behind the no-confidence motion. Imran Khan conveniently tried to portray himself as a political martyr by dissolving the assemblies and insisting on early elections. He wanted to blame a foreign conspiracy instead of his own failures to remain a viable candidate in the next election by playing a victim. Had the Supreme Court not intervened to restore the parliament, Imran Khan would have convinced the public to vote for him as the only leader against the notorious Western bloc.

Let me highlight the actual failures of the PTI regime that led to its collapse. Inflation has ambled in double figures throughout the current fiscal year – standing at 12.7% in March. Pakistan is currently facing a bout of imported inflation on account of surging international commodity markets and energy prices. However, that is no excuse for a consistently elevated level of inflation for almost ten months – currently the fourth-highest in the world.

The PTI leadership – including Imran Khan – that used to criticise the former government by quoting excessive external loans and foreign aid has shattered all records in its brief stint in power. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), the PTI government added PKR 18 trillion to the national public debt – more than the cumulative borrowing of the previous decade. Poor fiscal management and ill-timed monetary policies have squeezed the foreign currency reserves to $11.32 billion – the lowest in two years despite record borrowing and foreign aid. Pakistan has enough dollar reserves to cover only a month of imports as the Current Account Deficit (CAD) already stands at $12 billion. The panic even plunged the rupee to a record low of 189.5 against the greenback in the interbank market. Countless other statistical figures point in a single, unanimous direction – Imran Khan failed to stabilise the economy of Pakistan despite his lofty claims.

The parliament reconvened on Monday to vote for a new prime minister – Shehbaz Sharif, the former opposition leader. Political experts believe that Sharif will pivot Pakistan toward a traditional foreign policy vis-à-vis aligned with the U.S. and Europe. The immediate plan of action would be to expedite the efforts to avail of the remaining $3 billion loan from the IMF to stabilise the forex reserves. Pakistan’s central bank already tightened the market last week with a rate hike of 250 bps – the highest increment since 1996.

As the political uncertainty has finally settled, the markets would rebalance eventually. The real challenge is to draft a budget for the next fiscal year in the following two months. The situation is tricky – both on the political and economic front – but an alliance of seasoned politicians is perhaps a blessing for Pakistan. Unless the ghosts of the past catch up and plunge Pakistan back into political anarchy – this time with no alternative.

Syed Zain Abbas Rizvi is a current affairs writer primarily analyzing global events and their political, economic and social consequences. He also holds a Bachelor's degree from the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi, with majors in Finance and Capital Markets.