Pakistan’s cricketer and Prime Minister Imran Khan is out of office

During his international stint, Imran Khan was considered a shrewd cricket captain when it came to leading Pakistan.

The 69-year-old prime minister was sacked on Sunday following a motion of no confidence in the National Assembly, days after he believed he had handicapped the opposition by dissolving parliament and calling early elections.

The Supreme Court ruled his action illegal on Thursday, and after losing his majority in the assembly, Khan ran out of options.

When Khan became prime minister in 2018, he enjoyed genuine popular support, but critics say he failed to deliver on his promises to revitalize the economy and improve the lives of the poor.

Imran Khan was ousted from office by a vote of no confidence in the National Assembly Photo: AFP / WAKIL KOHSAR

Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was voted for by millions who grew up watching him play cricket, where he excelled as an all-rounder and led Pakistan to the 1992 World Cup title.

The PTI overturned the decades-long dominance of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) – two normally feuding groups that banded together to oust him.

Khan’s vision was to transform Pakistan into a welfare state modeled on the Islamic golden age of the 7th to 14th centuries, a period of cultural, economic and scientific prosperity in the Muslim world.

But he made little headway in improving Pakistan’s finances as runaway inflation, crippling debt and a weak rupee undermined economic reform.

The security situation has also deteriorated under his watch, especially since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan last year.

The 69-year-old's Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was voted in by millions who grew up watching cricket with Khan The 69-year-old’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was voted in by millions who grew up watching cricket with Khan Photo: AFP / ARIF ALI

The Oxford-educated son of a wealthy Lahore family had a reputation as a playboy until his retirement from international cricket.

For years he engaged in charity projects, raising millions to build a cancer hospital in his mother’s honor.

Khan excelled as an all-rounder and led the nation to the 1992 world title Khan excelled as an all-rounder and led the nation to the 1992 world title Photo: AFP / STEPHEN DUPONT

He tiptoed into politics and for years held the PTI’s only seat in parliament.

But the party grew tremendously during the military-led government of General Pervez Musharraf, becoming a real force in the 2013 election before winning a majority five years later.

However, running the country proved more difficult than sitting in opposition.

Double-digit inflation has pushed up the cost of basic necessities, and although the economy is expected to grow 4 percent this year, it has stagnated for the past three years.

Pakistan has also had to borrow heavily just to service nearly $130 billion in foreign debt.

Khan was attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics when most leaders stayed away to protest China's human rights record Khan was attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics when most leaders stayed away to protest China’s human rights record Photo: POOL via AFP/Carl COURT

The increasingly unstable security situation, exemplified by the Taliban’s return to power across the border in mid-August, also contributed to Khan’s downfall.

The hardline Islamists’ victory was initially seen as a victory both for Pakistan – who has long been accused of backing them – and for a prime minister known as “Taliban Khan” for his consistent pro-dialogue and criticism of US Policy towards Kabul.

But attacks by Pakistan’s Taliban — as well as local group Islamic State (IS-K) and ethnic Baluch separatists — have escalated despite Kabul’s assurances that Afghan soil would not be used for such purposes.

Pakistan’s army is the key to political power and some analysts say Khan has lost his crucial support – claims both sides dispute.

Khan’s efforts to position Pakistan as a key, non-aligned regional player have also been successful.

Relations with the United States were crumbling, and Khan accused Washington of colluding with the opposition for regime change.

Islamabad has drawn closer to China, although vital work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has slowed.

He also drew closer to Russia and angered the West by continuing a visit to Moscow on the same day as the invasion of Ukraine.

Khan had some domestic success.

He is credited with getting Pakistan through the Covid-19 pandemic relatively unscathed, and a free universal healthcare system he pioneered is slowly being rolled out across the country.

Khan frequently rails against Western free movement, sparking outrage from rights groups by repeatedly linking rape to the way women dress in a deeply patriarchal country where sexual violence is rife.

Married three times, his current wife Bushra Bibi comes from a conservative family and wears a veil in public.

Often described as impulsive and brash, he frequently refers to cricket analogies to describe his political struggles.

“I fight to the very last ball. I never give up, whatever the outcome,” he said in an address to the nation last week.

He was fired on Sunday.

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