In the 2008 Batman movie “The Dark Knight”, Harvey Dent – played by Aaron Eckhart – says, “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Pakistan’s yesteryear cricketing hero Imran Khan was ousted as Pakistan's prime minister (PM) after a vote of no-confidence last week.

While he led his cricket team to victory during the 1992 Cricket World Cup, he failed to bring the same charisma to politics, where he was run out by hell-bent opponents, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), in his first innings.

Khan may not be a villain here, but a victim of history, perhaps.

Khan was not the first prime minister to leave before completing his 5-year parliamentary tenure. Not a single one of them could not complete the full tenure. However, he was the first premier to be forced out of the parliament through a trust vote.

Ironically, Pakistan’s powerful army and public support that brought Khan into power in 2018, were also among the main reasons behind his downfall now. He was elected in July on a platform of tackling corruption, fixing the economy for the poor with ample employment opportunities and building a ‘Naya Pakistan’ (new). Some observers believe that he was ousted on the account of skyrocketing inflation and ballooning foreign debt.

Let’s go back to the beginning of this end, shall we?

A rocketing cost of living in Pakistan, the Pakistani Rupee falling against the US Dollar and a deepening economic crisis contributed to public disgruntlement against Khan. The Pakistan government's external debt rose by a massive 20% in the first half of the last fiscal (2021-22) reaching a high of PKR21 trillion in December 2021.

SIMPLY PUT: Why was Imran Khan run out in his first innings?
Pakistan's debt trapBI India

By borrowing from foreign countries, Khan flouted yet another campaign promise made to his audience. In 2018, he criticised the previous ruling parties for relying on a “begging bowl’’ and pledging not to resort to external borrowing. Just a year later, Khan struck a deal with the International Monetary Fund. His government broke all previous records by borrowing $16 billion in just one year, the biggest loan ever since the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

These retractions of campaign promises gained him the embarrassing nickname “U-turn Khan.”

SIMPLY PUT: Why was Imran Khan run out in his first innings?
Imran Khan has been making a u-turn on his campaign

The ruling party was also grappling with the country’s double-digit inflation for much of its term. The sensitive price index, which includes the prices of essential food items, also recorded a rise of 15.1% in March this year compared to the same time last year. The pressure on Khan reached new heights in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, causing a surge in global oil prices.

SIMPLY PUT: Why was Imran Khan run out in his first innings?
Pakistan's inflation has been running high since 2019BI India

Sensing the eroding public support, Khan announced a cut in domestic fuel and electricity prices despite a global rise, which later turned out to be the final nail in his coffin. This move added to Pakistan’s chronic fiscal deficit and balance-of-payments troubles, which opened a clear window for Khan’s opposition to call for his resignation later.

Khan’s democratic party seemingly wasn’t open to dissent either. Rana Sanaullah, a prominent parliamentarian and vocal critic of Khan’s government, was arrested in 2019 for allegedly trafficking drugs by the military-run anti-narcotics force. Sanaullah had predicted his arrest even before there was a warrant against him.

Later on July 25, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took to the streets across Pakistan to protest Khan’s assault on silencing dissenting voices.

The account of what went wrong would be incomplete without mentioning the civil-military relationship, which took a turn for the worse after the reshuffle of army chiefs. Khan’s decision to retain Lieutenant-General Faiz Hameed as the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief, rejecting the nominee of army chief General Qamar Bajwa in October 2021, further weakened the former PM’s political position. He held off issuing approval to change of posting for nearly three weeks before eventually giving in.

After Bajwa replaced Hameed as the Director-General of ISI in October, Khan reportedly lost his support from the army.

Khan is the latest in a long line of Pakistani prime ministers who have fallen out of their position before completing their five-year tenure. The newly appointed PM Shehbaz Sharif inherits a country in a parlous state, with a dysfunctional economic model.