Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted as head of state following a vote of no confidence over allegations of economic mismanagement and abuses in the country’s foreign policy, marking the end of his turbulent tenure.
The former cricket star was defeated in the parliamentary vote that took place on Sunday. The opposition needed at least 172 votes from the 342-strong assembly to oust him.
The no-confidence vote was backed by an alliance of politicians, including more than a dozen defectors from Khan’s own political party.
The vote came after Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a decision to block an earlier vote of no confidence in Khan over allegations of economic mismanagement was unconstitutional.
In its decision, the Supreme Court also overturned Khan’s earlier decision to dissolve parliament and call for early elections, calling it “no legal effect”.
The Speaker of the National Assembly will now issue a notice to Khan calling for a new session of Parliament to elect a new prime minister.
In an address to the nation Friday night, Khan reiterated unverified claims that the no-confidence vote was the result of a “foreign conspiracy” with ties to the United States.
Khan said he was singled out by the US because, unlike his opponents, he could not “easily be used as a puppet for the West” in the pursuit of an independent foreign policy. He said he was not anti-American but would not allow his nation to be “used as tissue paper” in a “one-sided relationship.”
He also called for nationwide protests on Sunday against attempts to “install” a new government by “foreign powers.”
On Thursday, the US State Department released a statement saying there was “no truth” to Khan’s allegations of interference.
“We are following developments in Pakistan closely and we respect, we support Pakistan’s constitutional process and the rule of law, but when it comes to these allegations, there is nothing to it,” the statement said.
Sunday’s vote marked the latest escalation of a crisis that had been simmering for weeks, in which Khan had already lost the support of key political allies and the country’s powerful military.
Pakistan, a nation of 220 million people, has struggled with political instability since its founding in 1947, with multiple regime changes and military coups. No prime minister has ever served a full five-year term under the current 1973 constitution.
Khan’s ouster from office lasts just under four years and there are now concerns it could increase the risk of political instability in the South Asian nation.
Pakistan’s main opposition parties have rallied for Khan’s sack since he came to power in 2018 after an election marred by allegations of vote-rigging and foul play.
More recently, he has been dogged by allegations of fiscal negligence as his government battles foreign exchange reserve depletion and double-digit inflation, while the cost of basic necessities like food and fuel is soaring. The Pakistani rupee hit an all-time low on Thursday, according to Reuters.
Khan’s response was to reiterate his claims that opposition to him was being fomented by the US.
His failure to work with his allies and the military led to a breakdown in relations within his coalition government.
As frustration with his leadership mounted, the opposition tabled a motion for a vote of no confidence in Parliament. They had urged Khan to resign before the vote.
Instead, last Sunday, Khan called for snap elections in a dramatic bid to stay in power after the parliament’s deputy speaker blocked a no-confidence vote against him that seemed almost certain to succeed.
The move and Khan’s subsequent dissolution of parliament enraged an opposition that has been calling for his ouster for months.
The opposition accused Khan of treason and asked Pakistan’s highest court to rule on whether the prime minister violated the constitution. Thursday’s Supreme Court decision paved the way for Khan’s impeachment.
Arguably Pakistan’s best-known Prime Minister in recent decades, Khan has made a name for himself at home and around the world as a politician, philanthropist and sports star.
Born in 1952 to a wealthy family in the city of Lahore, he received a prestigious education, rounded out with degrees in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford University.
After making his debut for the Pakistan cricket team in 1971, he became one of the finest players of his generation.
With his eye on politics, he built his popularity as a superstar to become one of Pakistan’s most formidable politicians.
Angered by the ongoing corruption in the country, he formed his own political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), or Movement for Justice, in 1996.
Khan won a seat in parliament in 2002, but his party largely languished in the political wilderness. In the summer of 2013, with a bevy of new voters raised on tales of Khan’s magic, the PTI stormed ahead in that year’s general election despite failing to win a majority.
He led thousands of protesters to Islamabad against then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and shut down the capital in August 2014 during a month-long sit-in that became known as the Azadi March, or Freedom Movement.
In 2018, after more than two decades of struggling in politics, Khan realized his long-awaited dream of becoming prime minister, promising a “new Pakistan” and vowing to eradicate poverty and corruption.
During his tenure, he faced numerous hurdles, from rising inflation to a global pandemic. Khan’s government has also weathered record falls in foreign exchange reserves and last year accepted a $6 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
In 2019, amid escalating hostilities between Pakistan and neighboring India, clashes erupted between the two nuclear-weapon states. But diplomacy on both sides led to a simmering standoff that lasted throughout Khan’s tenure, with the Pakistani leader earning much praise for his professional and peaceful conduct.
The following year, the coronavirus pandemic tested Khan’s leadership again as thousands of cases were reported in Pakistan, which closed borders and imposed lockdowns to stem the spread of the virus.
In August 2021, Khan watched closely as the Taliban began their insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan has close ties to the extremist group and has been accused of helping the Taliban fight the US-backed government – accusations denied by Islamabad.
For much of his tenure, Khan promoted anti-American rhetoric and blamed the US for the situation in Afghanistan. In a sign of fractured relations, US President Joe Biden and Khan have not spoken to each other since Biden took office last year.
Under Khan’s leadership, Pakistan maintained close ties with China. Strong economic, diplomatic and military ties make Islamabad one of Beijing’s closest allies in the region, while China has also invested heavily in Pakistan in recent years through its Belt and Road trade and infrastructure program.
Khan also refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prompting renewed opposition calls for his resignation.
On a state visit last month, Khan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Feb. 24, the day Russia began its assault on its democratically ruled neighbor.
With critics citing poor foreign policy decisions and rising inflation, Khan won a parliamentary confidence vote just over a year ago. But he ran out of luck on Saturday.