Pakistani opposition rallies to press PM Khan to resign

AFP

Thousands of Pakistani opposition party supporters rallied on Tuesday to demand that Prime Minister Imran Khan step down or face a non-confidence vote in parliament, accusing him of mismanaging the economy and poor governance.

The opposition campaign, spearheaded by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, raises the prospect of political turmoil in the nuclear-armed country where the powerful military often determines who rules.

"Resign in 24 hours and face us in an election," Bhutto's son and PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto told the rally just outside the capital, Islamabad, directing his comments at Khan.

"Or be prepared for a no-confidence move."

Khan became prime minister in 2018 after leading his upstart party to a general election victory with, his critics said, the backing of the military.

Both Khan and the military denied that.

Opposition members and political analysts now say that the former cricket star has lost the backing of the military but both Khan and the army deny that.

Leaders of the opposition say Khan has lost public support as he struggles with high inflation, a rising current account deficit and depleting foreign reserves.

Khan rejects the accusations and has responded to economic problems with cuts in fuel and electricity prices, while rejecting calls to step down and warning the opposition of unspecified consequences if they force a vote of no-confidence.

Both the opposition and Khan's party are riven by factions but the opposition say they need to win over 11 members of parliament to their side force a no-confidence vote.

Khan won a no-confidence vote last year by six votes.

Pakistan's next general election is due by 2023.

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