Pakistani army chief reportedly meets Prime Minister Imran Khan as parliamentary vote looms

Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa met Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday amid a stalemate over a parliamentary vote to oust the prime minister, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The meeting comes hours after parliament was abruptly adjourned ahead of the vote Khan was supposed to lose.

Khan’s allies blocked a no-confidence motion last week and dissolved the lower house of parliament, but Pakistan’s highest court on Thursday ordered the vote to take place on Saturday.

The vote has yet to take place despite the passage of nearly 12 hours since the start of the session on Saturday.

Members of Khan’s party had suggested on Friday that they would try to delay the vote for as long as possible. They said there was a foreign plot to oust him.

Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician, has vowed to “fight” any attempt to replace him.

Ahead of Saturday’s session adjournment, Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif urged Lower House Speaker Asad Qaiser to ensure the vote is given priority. Sharif is expected to become prime minister if Khan is ousted.

The speaker said he would implement the court order “in letter and spirit”.

Loss of majority control

Khan, 69, came to power in 2018 with the backing of the military but recently lost his parliamentary majority when allies left his coalition government.

Opposition parties say he has failed to revive a COVID-19 battered economy or deliver on his promises to make Pakistan a prosperous, corruption-free nation respected on the world stage.

The opposition and some analysts say Khan fell out with the military, a charge he and the military deny. The military has ruled the state for half of its 75-year postcolonial history, and no prime minister has completed a full five-year term.

Customers at a cafe in Islamabad watch a TV screen on Friday as Khan delivers a speech. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

Khan, who enjoyed broad popular support when he took office, said on Friday night that he was disappointed with the highest court’s decision but had accepted it. But he said he would not recognize any opposition government to replace him.

‘I will not accept an imported government,’ he told the nation in a late night speech, suggesting the decision to oust him was part of a foreign plot and calling for peaceful protests on Sunday . “I’m ready for a fight.”

Khan accused the United States of supporting a plot to oust him, without providing proof of his claim, which Washington denied. He opposed the US-led intervention in Afghanistan and has developed relations with Russia since becoming prime minister.