Imran Khan was ousted from his position as prime minister of Pakistan after 174 legislators voted against him in a no-confidence motion early on Sunday morning.
The vote came after the speaker of the house resigned, saying he could not oversee the ouster of his close ally of 30 years, and after Khan’s own lawmakers delayed the vote all Saturday, only allowing voting close to midnight. Before discussion of the vote began, all of Khan’s allies walked out of the chamber.
The Supreme Court had ordered the vote to take place no later than Saturday, after it dismissed as unconstitutional an earlier attempt by Khan to dissolve the parliament in an effort to forest the vote.
In an impassioned speech Friday, Khan doubled down on his accusations that his opponents colluded with the United States to unseat him over his foreign policy choices, which often seemed to favor China and Russia and defied the US.
Khan said Washington opposed his Feb. 24 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin hours after tanks rolled into Ukraine, launching a devastating war in the heart of Europe.
The US State Department has denied any involvement in Pakistan’s internal politics. Deputy State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters on Friday there was “absolutely no truth to these allegations.”
Still, Khan urged his supporters to take to the streets, particularly the youth who have been the backbone of his support since the former cricket star turned conservative Islamist politician came to power in 2018. He said they needed to protect Pakistan’s sovereignty and oppose US dictations .
“You have to come out to protect your own future. It is you who have to protect your democracy, your sovereignty and your independence. … This is your duty,” he said. “I will not accept an imposed government.”
Khan’s options are limited and should he see a big turnout in support, he may try to keep the momentum of street protests as a way to pressure Parliament to dissolve and go to early elections.
The no-confidence vote loss for Khan may bring to power some unlikely partners.
Among them is a radically religious party that runs scores of religious schools. The Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam, or Assembly of Clerics, teaches a deeply conservative brand of Islam in its schools. Many of Afghanistan’s Taliban and Pakistan’s own homegrown violent Taliban graduated from JUI schools.
The largest among the opposition parties — the Pakistan People’s Party, led by the son of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and the Pakistan Muslim League — have been tainted by allegations of widespread corruption.
Pakistan Muslim League leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was convicted of corruption after being named in the so-called Panama Papers. That’s a collection of leaked secret financial documents showing how some of the world’s richest hide their money and involving a global law firm based in Panama. Sharif was disqualified by Pakistan’s Supreme Court from holding office.
If the opposition wins the no-confidence vote, it is up to Parliament to choose a new head of government, which could be Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif. If the lawmakers are unsuccessful, early elections would be called.