Beyond the Bubble: Students from Pakistan react to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s dissolution of Parliament

Lily Yost, News Reporter

On April 3, Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan dissolved the country’s national assembly to prevent a no-confidence motion removing Khan from office. The Wire spoke with students from Pakistan who have been following the events. 

A no-confidence motion is a vote to elect a new prime minister before the term of the current prime minister ends. It illustrates distrust of the leader in power. In order to pass, the motion needs a majority vote from the lower house. 

Pakistan’s Supreme Court declared that Khan had violated the Constitution and ordered the no-confidence motion to proceed on April 9. 

“Article 5 [was used] as its basis to dissolve the national assembly, which says that a citizen should be loyal to the state… you cannot conspire or try to conspire with foreign elements,” sophomore Zakir Hussain said. 

Khan claims that the opposition’s no-confidence motion was backed by U.S. efforts to take the prime minister out of office. U.S. officials have denied Khan’s allegations. Pakistan’s distrust of the U.S. follows a history of American interference in Pakistani politics. 

“He said a foreign conspiracy was at work, which in some ways does make sense because of the U.S.’ and the West’s involvement in the regime change in Pakistan in the past,” first-year Arham Khan said. 

The decision to remove Prime Minister Khan from office was announced the morning of April 10 after a long night of parliamentary debate. Mounting debt and double-digit inflation have tarnished Khan’s government. 

“The economy’s kind of tanking right now, but that’s because he does not like the way the West talks to Pakistan,” Arham said. 

Prime Minister Khan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin the day Russia invaded Ukraine. Pakistan has been cementing a relationship with China and Russia as Khan has met U.S. requests with resistance. 

“The U.S. wanted military bases in Pakistan so they could have more access over Asia, he refused, the U.S. wasn’t happy with that,” Arham said. “It naturally makes sense that he’s gearing his head more towards Russia, which is the alternative option as a superpower.”

The U.S. sanctioned Pakistan in April of 2019, exacerbating the country’s economic conditions. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and U.S. involvement in Afghanistan have tested U.S. and Pakistan relations.

“He [Khan] openly called out the U.S. and Western countries for pushing Pakistan to pick a side in the Russia-Ukraine conflict,” Arham said. 

“What do you think of us? Are we your slaves…that whatever you say, we will do?” asked the Prime Minister in a televised address, following a joint letter from 22 countries urging Khan to condemn Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. 

In Pakistan’s 75 years of history, a prime minister has yet to complete a full 5-year term in office. Corruption and mismanagement has plagued Pakistani efforts towards democracy. Hussain expressed disappointment with another failed prime minister tenure; Khan’s term was set to end in October.

“[I was] in favor of maybe somewhere in my heart, in favor of the current government trying to complete their five year tenure just because it’s good for democracy… it sets precedence,” Hussain said. 

Hussain questioned whether the Prime Minister’s actions were an attempt to galvanize his supporters. 

“It seemed like a publicity stunt by the Prime Minister, too, because his popularity really surged after this. His supporters kept saying that was a master’s stroke by him. But it’s not good for the Constitution,” Hussain said. 

Although the Prime Minister has his faults, Arham is disappointed that the opposition’s power will be strengthened, given a history of corruption. 

“All of the opposition leaders are dynasties and members of powerful families, they have members in jail for corruption, they have members in jail for off-shore accounts, they have members in jail for fabricating documents, stealing money, being corrupt, giving positions away from their family members—why would anyone want them in power?” Arham said. “The opposition parties want to put in their own prime minister… It’s a big win for democracy and the constitution and the law, but at the same time it’s just so bad for us.” 

Arham also stressed the important role of the military. In the past, Pakistan’s military sided with the Prime Minister, which has safeguarded Khan from the opposition. This changed when Khan refused to appoint a new intelligence chief.

“The military plays a huge part in this. The reason the opposition is actually defying him right now is because the military is starting to become a bit more neutral instead of supporting him,” Arham said. “If you don’t have the backing of the military, you are in a vulnerable position.”