A tough new innings for Pakistan

Imran Khan's successor will inherit issues domestically and abroad

A supporter of ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-E-Insaf holds the national flag during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, on April 3. AP

A tumultuous day in Pakistan came to an end at nearly 1am on Sunday morning, as did Imran Khan's nearly four-year-long tenure as Prime Minister.

In a largely expected turn of events, a no-confidence motion in the National Assembly removed Mr Khan from power. The popularity of his government had already been plummeting. His relationship with the military, considered an influential power centre in the country, had worsened and his own star had been on the descendant, especially in the past fortnight when several members of his own party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, withdrew support, and defections extended to members of the assembly in the ruling coalition. The Supreme Court having overturned Mr Khan's decision to dissolve the assembly last week was the final nail in his premiership, which is nowhere near the first in the country of 220.9 million people to be truncated – though by means different from a no-confidence vote.

Pakistan's history speaks for itself. The army has always had a weighty role to play in politics. As far back as 1947, when it became an independent country, no prime minister has completed a full five-year term. It remains to be seen what happens between now and August 2023, when the parliamentary election is due to be held. What is clear, however, is that Mr Khan's successor has a long, steep road ahead to start getting the country on track, both domestically and internationally.

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The next prime minister will have the crucial task of maintaining relations with its neighbours and repairing ties with the West

The terror group Tehrik-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan has in recent months increased attacks in the country. The violence that continually rocks the nation is merely one in several serious problems crippling Pakistan. Day-to-day life has become fraught for the massive numbers of people in the lower socio economic strata. The soaring prices of wheat, electricity and gas have become untenable. The rupee has reduced to one third of its worth from when Mr Khan took power in 2018. Inflation in the country is above 12 per cent. Foreign debt is at 43 per cent of GDP, and with also a stalled bailout package of $6 billion from the International Monetary Fund to unentangle, Mr Khan's successor will have inherited a heavy work load.

Another crucial task that will befall the next prime minister will be that of maintaining relations with its neighbours, but significantly, repairing its ties with the West, and taking on a more conciliatory tone with the US than Mr Khan did.

Soon after the incumbent's removal, opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif, imminently seen as as next-in-line to succeed Mr Khan, spoke rousingly in the National Assembly of "a new day, a new dawn" and wishing to place "balm on the country's sadness and wounds". Mr Sharif, 70, is the head of the party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, and brother of Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's former prime minister, who is exiled in London.

In an unmistakably triumphant tenor, and to loud applause in the house, Mr Sharif invoked in his speech the issue of justice, of not walking down the path of revenge, of not imprisoning innocent people, instead of allowing justice and the law take its course.

Only time will tell how much is accomplished of Mr Sharif's stated wish, irrespective of whether he succeeds Mr Khan or not, to restore Pakistan some of its compromised glory and set the nation and its people on a path of progress.

Published: April 10, 2022, 2:00 PM
Updated: April 18, 2022, 11:52 AM
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