Pakistan’s lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, voted Prime Minister Imran Khan out of power Saturday, nearly four years after he took office.
The voting on the opposition-launched, no-confidence resolution began after midnight local time, minutes after Speaker Asad Qaiser from Khan’s ruling party unexpectedly announced his resignation.
Qaiser invited a senior opposition lawmaker, Ayaz Sadiq, to chair the special session of the 342-member house, saying he could not take part in a “foreign conspiracy” to oust the prime minister.
Sadiq later announced that 174 lawmakers voted in favor of the no-confidence motion.
“Consequently, the resolution for vote of no-confidence against Mr. Imran Khan, the prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, has a been passed by a majority of the total membership of the National Assembly,” Sadiq said.
Almost all legislators of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party left before or during the voting process.
Election of new prime minister
The legislative house will now elect a new prime minister and government Monday. Shehbaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party has already been nominated by the united opposition as their candidate for prime minister.
“We will not seek revenge. We will not put people in jails, but the law will take its course,” Sharif said in a speech after the vote.
Khan, the 69-year-old former cricket star, had lost his majority in the run-up to the vote after 20 lawmakers from his ruling party defected. Main coalition partners also switched sides and joined the opposition, leaving him to fight for his political survival.
Despite its ouster from power, the PTI remains the largest political force, with 135 seats in the National Assembly.
Supreme Court ruling
Saturday’s vote was held after the country’s Supreme Court ruled earlier in the week that Khan had acted unconstitutionally when he previously blocked the no-confidence vote and subsequently dissolving the parliament.
Khan defended his blocking of the vote, alleging that the no-confidence motion was the result of the United States meddling in Pakistan’s politics.
Washington rejected the charges, saying there was “no truth” to them.
"I will not accept an imported government, and I am determined to vehemently agitate against it," Khan said in an address to the nation Friday. He called on his supporters to stage nationwide, peaceful protests Sunday.
The deposed prime minister alleged in his speech that he was being punished by Washington for visiting Russia and pursuing an "independent foreign policy" for Pakistan. He visited President Vladimir Putin on the day the Russian troops invaded Ukraine.
Lost military support
Khan is the first Pakistani prime minister to be ousted by a no-confidence vote, but no elected prime minister has served out a full five-year term since the founding of the country 75 years ago.
He was elected prime minister in 2018, promising to root out corruption and introduce reforms to fix economic troubles facing the country of about 220 million people.
But critics say most of those pledges have gone unaddressed amid persistent opposition allegations that Khan was misruling Pakistan and mismanaging the economy.
Khan’s critics say he had risen to power with the help of Pakistan’s military but lost the crucial support in recent months after developing differences over key security appointments and foreign policy matters, encouraging the opposition to stage his ouster.
Pakistan has experienced three military coups, leading to prolonged dictatorial rules in the country. Direct and indirect military interventions are blamed for the fragility of democracy in the nuclear-armed South Asia nation.