Peshawar, Pakistan: The party of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday dissolved a provincial assembly in the country’s northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where it held majority seats. Its rival, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, criticized the move, saying it meant to deepen the political crisis and force early parliamentary elections.
On Wednesday, Ghulam Ali, provincial governor in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, dissolved the local assembly there, just days after another Khan ally, provincial lawmaker Pervez Elahi, dissolved the assembly in Punjab, the country’s most populous province, in eastern Pakistan.
Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party was in power in both provinces. The dissolution of the chambers will lead to snap elections in both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab — and may lead to the party being reelected in both provinces — but will unlikely effect any change on the national level.
As opposition leader, Khan has been campaigning for early elections and has claimed — without providing evidence — that his ouster last April in a no-confidence vote in Parliament was illegal. He has also accused his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, the Pakistani military and the United States of orchestrating his ouster. Sharif, army officials and Washington have all dismissed the allegations.
Khan has also banked on his popularity and wide grass-root support to force early elections, and has since his ouster staged rallies across the country, calling for the vote. But Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League have repeatedly dismissed the demands, saying elections will be held as scheduled — later in 2023 — when the current parliament completes its five-year term.
Sharif’s government maintains that the tactics of the 70-year-old Khan are damaging the country’s economy. Pakistan has struggled with the aftermath of unprecedented floods that devastated the country last summer and which experts say were exacerbated by climate change. Cash-strapped Pakistan is also facing a serious financial crisis and unabated militant violence.