ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said he will not resign, rejecting opposition calls for him to step down ahead of a no-confidence move against him in his toughest challenge since coming to power in 2018.
Pakistan’s parliament will convene on Friday to start proceedings into a no-confidence motion. It could take seven days before an actual vote to decide if Khan will be removed.
The bid for a vote of no confidence has raised the risk of constitutional, administrative and economic crises amid a pending International Monetary Fund review on the next tranche of a $6 billion rescue package.
The IMF review was scheduled for this week but has yet to happen.
Opposition parties filed their motion this month, saying the former cricket star had lost his parliamentary majority after some 20 of his party lawmakers defected, calling on him to step down.
“I will not resign come what may,” Khan said in a statement late on Wednesday.
Khan said he would not surrender without a fight and questioned why he should quit under pressure from “crooks”.
Along with the defection of nearly 20 of his party lawmakers, some of his coalition partners have also suggested they may join the opposition.
Some political analysts and opposition members say Khan has fallen out with Pakistan’s powerful military, which has intervened in civilian politics for decades and was seen as instrumental in the success of Khan’s upstart party four years ago.
Khan denies the military helped him into office. The military says it does not interfere in politics.
The opposition accuses Khan of mismanaging the economy and foreign policy. He denies this. No Pakistani prime minister has ever completed a full five-year term in office.
The loss of dissident lawmakers has left Khan short of the minimum 172 that he needs for a simple majority in parliament.
The opposition all together commands 163 seats in the lower house but could build a majority if most of the defectors were to join its ranks in a no-confidence vote.
Khan has filed a court petition seeking a lifetime ban on the defectors while also appealing to them to return to the ruling party.
He has also called on the public to show support for his premiership by holding a “million-man” rally in Islamabad on
Opposition parties have announced they will also rally in support of the no-confidence vote.
With tension rising, the government deployed thousands of police around the parliament and other important offices on Thursday.
Pakistan’s next general election is due by late 2023 but Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad suggested at a news conference an election might be held early to defuse the looming confrontation.
(Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Robert Birsel)