Imran Khan’s surprise call for snap elections in Pakistan may be fruitful

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested on 19 November 2020 in Kabul.

Deputy Kohsar | AFP | Getty Images

As a cricket bowler, the equivalent of a baseball pitcher, sports legend Imran Khan was famous for his so-called “inswinger”. His deceptively lazy ball often starts slowly but suddenly shrinks sharply inwards, completely surprising the batter.

As Pakistan’s prime minister, Khan’s move to push for new elections, avoiding a no-confidence motion against his government on Sunday, has also completely hidden the opposition.

It was a clever plot. But will it knock out the opposition?

The question remains whether the Pakistan Supreme Court – which will consider whether the deputy speaker has violated the constitution – while rejecting the no-confidence vote – can reject Khan’s call for early elections.

More critically, will the military, the country’s main power center with which Khan has had bad relations, take action?

Pakistan has been ruled by a powerful army for more than half of the 63 years since independence. It has considerable power in domestic politics, security and foreign policy.

On Sunday, Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri refused a no-confidence vote and Khan avoided trying to oust him. Suri, a member of Khan’s ruling party, claimed that there was “foreign interference” in the attempt to oust Khan.

Associate Professor Iqbal Singh Seveya, director of the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, said Khan took a computational gamble in his move to call for early elections.

“Imran Khan is betting on maintaining his support base and breaking up the opposition. Opposition parties have been united in their desire to overthrow Imran Khan’s government and are unlikely to be able to hold a united front, “he told CNBC on Monday.

Imran Khan has been a favorite child of the military for many years. But a few months ago, he had an argument with the army chief. That relationship is not in a good place.

Michael Kugelman

Wilson Center Deputy Director for South Asia

Michael Kugelman, deputy director and senior associate at South Asia at the Wilson Center in Washington DC, told the Asia Squawk Box that the court’s decision was a first step and that there was an “outside chance” that the court could still reverse Khan’s decision.

According to Iqbal, the opposition seems to have a case.

“At the very least, it seems to be a misapplication of Article 5 of the Constitution,” he said. He was referring to an article which said that loyalty is a fundamental duty of every citizen, and the chair’s verdict meant that members of the opposition who had tabled a no-confidence motion were working against Pakistan.

Nevertheless, Khan’s electoral perseverance may be fruitful because it is considered “a strong and loyal foundation.”

“Over the last few days, Khan has been building this base through rallies and public speeches ahead of the next elections. His message of fighting corruption and the political dynasty, along with his appeal to religious symbolism, won him support, “said Professor. Says

Khan’s party emerged as the big winner in last week’s mayoral and local body elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Iqbal said, “After saying this, inflation and utility prices have caused frustration among those who voted for him. Pakistan’s inflation has risen to more than 10% this year and Khan’s economy has come under attack from opponents.

So far the neutral army is another big unknown.

“Imran Khan has been a favorite child of the military for many years. But he had an argument with the army chief a few months ago, “said Kugelman. “It simply came to our notice then. So this means that the army chief Imran Khan will not leave his way to do any good.

There are a number of factors that work, but the next few days will bring some clarity.

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