25 March 2022 marked the 30th anniversary of Pakistan's talismanic cricket captain Imran khan leading them to world cup glory. His charismatic leadership had seemingly achieved the impossible, the volatile underdogs beating their former colonisers at their own game on their home turf.
Khan had retired from cricket in 1987 but returned to lead Pakistan to world cup glory, lending an aura of folk heroism to his leadership.
On 28 March 2022, a no-confidence motion seeking the ouster of Prime Minister Imran Khan was presented before the National Assembly by opposition parties.
The bid to oust Khan got a boost on Wednesday when in a move, that some argue was ripped off the pages of the Machiavellian playbook, The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) - a key ally of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led coalition government - said it reached a pact with the opposition and then quit Khan's ruling coalition.
As things stand, the Pakistani Premier will lose his majority in the National Assembly and if things remain the same till voting on the no-trust resolution, his time as prime minister is nearly at an end.
Pakistan's leading daily Dawn goes as far as to claim, "The prime minister is as good as gone."
Long ascent to the throne
It is hard to pin down when Imran Khan's tryst with power began exactly as he was offered multiple political roles as early as his playing days.
But all stories need to start somewhere, so ours begins on 25 April 1996, the day Imran Khan founded a political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Back then the Oxford-educated Khan advertised close ties to the West. He toured all over Pakistan with his first wife, Jemima Goldsmith, the daughter of an Anglo-French Jewish billionaire, and hosted Princess Diana with much pomp, twice. Critics promptly dubbed him a Zionist agent.
He ran for a seat in National Assembly of Pakistan in the 1997 Pakistani general election as a candidate of PTI from multiple constituencies but did not win a majority in any, polling just 911 votes from Karachi South.
The man who was once known as a hedonistic bachelor and a playboy who was active on the London nightclub circuit then course-corrected to include Islamic values to his rhetoric.
In 2002, he finally won one seat from Mianwal. The next elections held in 2008 were openly boycotted by PTI because it believed that the election was fraudulent and laced with irregularities.
During the 2013 election campaign, he announced that he would pull Pakistan out of the US-led war on terror and bring peace to the Pashtun tribal belt.
The 2013 elections can be likened to a new innings for the cricketer-turned-politician as he only narrowly missed out on securing the legally important position of leader of the opposition in the national parliament.
By the time the 2018 elections rolled up his message solidified to one of Islamic values and the formation of an Islamic welfare state that would not be a slave of the West. "China has improved the living standards of 700 million people. We must work along those lines," he declared in a passionate speech.
These days, he does his utmost to disassociate himself from the West. He is never seen in any Western dress in public. He now routinely prays at the tombs of saints with his third wife, a spiritual leader.
His 22-year-long journey came to a head as he was elected as prime minister in July 2018 on the platform of tackling corruption and fixing the economy. He clinched victory with over 5,45,000 votes from five different constituencies, a range unmatched by any other hopefuls in the past.
Once the self-styled 'liberal', received death threats from the Taliban as they associated the term liberal with a lack of religious belief. But now when Taliban took back power in Afghanistan from the United States, Khan said the militant group had "broken the shackles of slavery."
The key to power
So far one key player has been absent from the story, the Pakistan army, who have been in power for about half of Pakistan's existence.
After coming to power in 2013 with a handsome mandate, then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif started to assert himself. He tried to move away from the army's sphere of influence.
In order to cut Sharif and his party to size, the Pakistan army backed multiple protest movements. One of those movements was led by Imran Khan in 2014. Experts view the army's implicit support to the protesters as a 'soft coup' in operation and marked the beginning of Khan's ascent into national politics.
Turbulent stay at power
Soon after taking power, the PTI launched an anti-corruption drive. Landing the majority of the opposition leaders in Jail. However, very little came out of the drive with virtually no convictions.
Even though they have little to show for it, the crusade kept PTI voters somewhat content as well as simultaneously weakening their opponents. The real price of that was however less legislative reform.
The PTI was tied down by a thin majority in the House, and a minority in the Senate so big-ticket reforms ground to a halt. With Khan going on to claim no reforms can be made in the country unless the government enjoyed a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.
A day before Imran Khan was sworn in he named Usman Buzdar as his candidate for the office of chief minister of Punjab, a move that left his followers stunned, deepening the factionalism in PTI. Khan's choice clearly did not resonate with many in the party — especially those who had financed PTI for years and were expecting to land the job themselves once the party had won the province.
A Gallup poll last month showed Khan's approval rating has dropped to 36% from 40% in 2018, while Nawaz Sharif's had more than doubled to 55% in that time. In December, PTI lost a local election in a constituency where it had ruled for eight years, with lawmakers from his party having sought to switch sides.
Imran Khan's government has no shortage of troubles. The biggest is the economy. Khan has grappled with some of Asia's fastest rising prices for a few years now while managing a $6 billion programme with the International Monetary Fund that calls for tax increases set to further boost the cost of living.
Khan, this month, unexpectedly cut fuel and electricity prices to pacify public anger, disregarding the IMF agreement.
In confronting Pakistan's economic challenges, Khan has also broken other campaign promises. In 2018, he pledged not to resort to external borrowing and to end the country's cycle of debt. But then he struck a deal with the IMF in May 2019: a 39-month programme that demands austerity in exchange for a $6 billion loan.
Not being able to meet the conditions of lenders became a running theme of sorts. but could not implement all the agreed conditions. In July last year, the World Bank held the release of a $400m loan due to a delay in the implementation of conditions set by them, which Pakistan needed to build foreign exchange reserves.
January this year, The International Monetary Fund (IMF) deferred Pakistan's consideration of the completion of the sixth review and release of a $1 billion tranche under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF). Putting the PTI government under further pressure.
The pressure on Khan has reached new heights in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, causing a surge in global oil prices. Eventually leading to the no-confidence vote.
The fallout of a falling out
When Imran Khan released a photo of a luncheon with Bill Gates last month, eagle-eyed netizens noticed: The round table had 13 seats, but only a dozen men and a ghostly apparition.
The ghost-like figure appeared to be interacting with others. Shortly afterwards, it was discovered that the country's new spy chief, Lieutenant General Nadeem Anjum, had been doctored out of the photo.
This part of the tale began a few months earlier when army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa appointed Anjum to lead the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Khan then delayed the appointment and publicly voiced support for General Faiz Hameed, widely seen as his ally, to stay in the role. After a standoff lasting several weeks, the General came out victorious.
Pundits agree that Imran khan has lost the favour of the parties that brought him to power, whose role at best can now be called neutral. And in Pakistan, you would want the army to be your friend.
Economic downturn or global conspiracy?
So why is Imran Khan being ousted? Is it really the economy or are other powers at play?
According to Delwar Hossain, Professor of International Relations, at the University of Dhaka and Member of Bangladesh Public Service Commission, "It is true that Pakistan is going through an economic crisis but I think it is a pretext to remove Imran Khan from office. The reality is the powers that backed him once are no longer with him.
The professor further added, "Imran khan was heading towards a geopolitical polarisation. He had visited Moscow and backed Russia, which angered the West. The Pakistan army also plays an important role in its politics and foreign policy. They are no longer backing him."
Back to the pavilion?
There have been only two previous instances in Pakistan's history when a sitting prime minister faced a vote of no confidence, and both times Benazir Bhutto, in 1989, and Shaukat Aziz, in 2006, emerged as winners.
Meanwhile, Imran khan is not declaring defeat so easily. The government is seeking a Supreme Court ruling that would not only stop turncoat PTI members from voting under an anti-defection law, but also ban them from parliament for life.
In another interesting development, Khan waved a mysterious letter at a public rally on 27 March claiming that a foreign conspiracy was afoot to oust him from power, touting the opposition's no-confidence motion against him as a testimony of 'foreign-funded' move to topple his government.
The lower House of Pakistan's Parliament met on 31 March for a debate on the no-confidence motion, which was adjourned till 3 April minutes after it began.
A simple majority of 172 in the 342-seat National Assembly would cut short his tenure as PM. With his coalition ally, the MQM, joining the opposition, on paper the opposition now commands 175 votes to the government's 164 - meaning Khan's inaugural innings as prime minister has almost certainly come to an end.
And with this, Pakistan's wait for an elected prime minister to successfully complete their five-year tenure still goes on.