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Imran to address nation tonight: minister

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan will deliver an address to the nation in the evening, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry announced on Thursday.

In a separate tweet, Senator Faisal Javed Khan said the timing of the speech would be revealed later.

The announcements were made after Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed termed Friday (tomorrow) and Saturday as “important” and, using a cricket analogy, reiterated the prime minister will “fight until the last over and the last ball”.

Khan was originally expected to address the nation Wednesday, however, the address was postponed. No reason was offered by the senator who announced the cancellation through a tweet.

The address comes as the National Assembly begins a debate of no-confidence in the leadership of Khan, which could see the former cricket star ousted and the return of political uncertainty in the country.

On Wednesday, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) abandoned the ruling coalition and threw its lot in with the opposition seeking to oust him.

More than a dozen PTI MPs have also indicated they will cross the floor, although party leaders are trying to get the courts to prevent them from voting on Sunday.

In the past, political parties have also resorted to physically preventing lawmakers from voting against key legislation by blocking access to the National Assembly, leading to cat-and-mouse chases and even accusations of kidnapping.

The opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance has called on the prime minister to resign even before he lost his majority in the Lower House, but his aides have said he will not quit.

No prime minister in Pakistan’s history has seen out a full term, and Khan is facing the biggest challenge to his rule since being elected in 2018, with opponents, almost all of them facing charges of corruption and misuse of authority, accusing him of economic mismanagement and foreign-policy bungling.

Feuding dynasties

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) dominated national politics for decades until Khan forged a coalition against the usually feuding dynastic groups.

He was elected after promising to sweep away decades of entrenched corruption and cronyism, but has struggled to maintain support with inflation skyrocketing, a feeble rupee and crippling debt.

If Khan loses next week’s vote, a new government could be headed by PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif, whose brother and deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif has not returned since being released from jail in 2019 to get medical treatment abroad.

Also given a senior role will likely be the PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

One card up Khan’s sleeve could be to call an early election — the next one must be held before October 2023.

“The best option in this situation would have been fresh elections to enable the new government to handle economic, political and external problems faced by the country,” said political analyst Talat Masood, a retired general.

“The country is heading towards something unpredictable […] where there is going to be a lot of chaos and problems.”

Hassan Askari, another political analyst, agreed.

“The long-term political repercussion of the evolving situation will be instability, continued conflict in politics and inability to cope with economic challenges that Pakistan is currently facing,” he said.

Khan has railed against his domestic opponents for weeks, but on Sunday told a rally in the capital that a “foreign conspiracy” was also plotting his removal.

“We have been threatened in writing but we will not compromise on national interests,” he said, without offering evidence or details.

— With AFP

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