Key Pakistan province sacks Imran Khan-backed chief minister

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An ally of former Pakistan premier Imran Khan was removed as chief minister of a key province after he failed to seek a confidence vote from lawmakers.

It is a blow to the opposition leader’s plan to dissolve the state legislature and force snap elections.

Chaudhry Parvez Elahi “ceases to hold his office with immediate effect” and his Cabinet is dissolved, according to a Twitter message by the governor of Punjab, Baligh ur Rehman, early Friday morning.

Elahi has been asked to continue to serve until a new leader is elected by the 371-member provincial legislature, he said.

Elahi has announced plans to challenge the order in court and he will separately seek the dismissal of the governor by President Arif Alvi, local media reported.

Rehman, allied with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, had asked Elahi to seek the trust of the house after Khan unveiled his plan to dissolve the state legislature in Punjab and the north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Punjab, the country’s most populous state, is considered Pakistan’s political capital and all parties seek to control it.

Khan had earlier this month announced plans to dissolve the two assemblies, which he controls, on Dec 23 to mount pressure on Sharif to hold early elections in the country.

The government has rejected Khan’s call, saying elections will be held after federal assembly completes its five-year term in August.

The benchmark KSE-100 index fell on Friday and headed for a fourth week of losses on the back of the continuing political uncertainty.

The political impasse comes as Pakistan’s government is striving to shore up its fragile finances.

The country was downgraded by S&P Global Ratings on Thursday as a series of shocks, from flooding to surging inflation, cause the nation’s external, fiscal and economic metrics to further deteriorate.

Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service have already downgraded the South Asian nation.

The country’s foreign exchange reserves cover just over a month of imports and its loan programme with the International Monetary Fund has been delayed amid disputes over tax targets.

 

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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