Imran had threatened
to impose martial law;
tried to sack Army
chief; claims Guardian

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted from power on Saturday amid political turmoil and 174 votes were cast in favour of ‘no-confidence against him’.

Imran Khan, who was ousted as Pakistan’s prime minister on Saturday, threatened to implement martial law rather than hand over power to the opposition, according to documents seen by the Guardian.

According to security officials and opposition figures, he attempted several moves to hold on to power in the days and hours leading up to the no-confidence vote. However, he failed to stop it happening, and in the final minutes before midnight on Saturday, he was ousted from office.

Khan had initially tried to stop the vote, which was first scheduled to be heard in the national assembly last weekend, by dissolving parliament and calling for fresh elections, claiming the vote was part of a “foreign conspiracy” to topple him.

But this manoeuvre was frustrated by the supreme court, which declared Khan’s actions in violation of the constitution and ordered for the vote to go ahead on Saturday.

Imran Khan attends a military parade to mark Pakistan National Day in Islamabad in March

Pakistan parliament ousts Imran Khan in last-minute vote

On Friday, a senior minister from his ruling government sent a message to an opposition leader that read: “Martial law or elections – your choice.”

It appeared to threaten the opposition with the ultimatum that they should agree to Khan’s demand of fresh elections or he would bring in Pakistan’s powerful military to take control, as has happened repeatedly in the country’s history.

One figure from the opposition said it had refused the demand. “Imran Khan believed it should be him or no one,” they said.

According to security officials, on the day of the no-confidence vote, which Khan’s party delayed by 14 hours, the prime minister had then attempted to sack the chief of the army in order to provoke the military into taking control and impose martial law.

“Imran Khan wanted to sack the army chief, but the forces received information about it and they thwarted his plan after they came to know about it,” said a security official on condition of anonymity. “Khan wanted to create a huge crisis to remain in power.”

Khan’s ministers also appeared to be setting the stage for military intervention. “If martial law is imposed on the country, the opposition parties would be responsible for this, as they have been involved in buying and selling votes,” Fawad Chaudhry, then information minister, told reporters on Saturday.

Coverage in Guardian

As the no-confidence vote continued to be obstructed and delayed by Asad Qaisar, the speaker of the house and a close ally of Khan who was acting reportedly on direct instructions from him, the opposition leader, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, told parliament: “Imran Khan wants the army to get involved.”

The chief justice also took the unprecedented steps of instructing the supreme court to open its doors at midnight, to act in the event that Khan attempted to obstruct the legally mandated vote going ahead.

The allegations that Khan was trying to “remove the chief of the army staff for furtherance of political interests” were also stated in a legal petition filed to the Islamabad high court by the lawyer Adnan Iqbal on Saturday night.

While Khan’s rise to power appeared to have the backing of Pakistan’s powerful armed forces, in recent months there had been increasingly apparent discord between him and the military establishment over a senior military appointment.

It appears that the friction between Khan and the military came to a head on Saturday night. Khan met with Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, the army’s chief of staff, that night after trying to remove him earlier in the day, according to Reuters. Local media reported Bajwa told Khan to accept his fate and stop interfering in the vote.

Finally, after the speaker dramatically resigned and just a few minutes before the midnight deadline, the vote took place in the national assembly. Khan, who no longer held a parliamentary majority, lost by 174 votes, making him Pakistan’s first prime minister to be removed by a vote of no confidence.

The military, which has long denied interfering in Pakistani politics, rebutted all the allegations of its involvement in events leading up the vote, calling them “baseless rumours”. Chaudry, Khan’s former information minister, also denied Khan’s attempts to usurp the vote.

“These fake stories are being spread to mislead the public and create anarchy in the country. All such malicious attempts will be defeated by the people of Pakistan,” said an official close to the army. “Pakistan armed forces are the guarantor of peace in Pakistan and the enemy is attempting to tarnish the image of armed forces.”

According to a Reuters report, General Bajwa and the ISI chief reached Imran Khan’s house by helicopter in the night and asked him to accept the no-confidence motion and stop interfering in voting. Not only this, the vehicles used to send them to jail were deployed outside the Parliament. When Imran was afraid of going to jail, he asked the speaker to resign. After this voting took place on the no-confidence motion and Imran Khan was out of power. The Pakistani army has denied this entire claim but the evidence is contrary to this.