Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has been turned out of office after losing a parliamentary battle to avoid facing a vote of no confidence.
Khan’s former coalition partners turned against him as the national economy crumbled and frustration grew at his inability to implement campaign promises.
The result of the vote, the culmination of a 13-hour session that included repeated delays, was announced just before 6am AEST on Sunday by the speaker of parliament’s lower house, Ayaz Sadiq.
Opposition parties were able to secure 174 votes in the 342-member house, Sadiq said, making it a majority vote.
“Consequently the motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan has been passed,” he said to the thumping of desks in the chamber.
Khan’s remaining allies had tried to kill the no confidence motion with a series of long speeches and motions intended to stall the vote that appears to have ended the former cricket legend’s political career.
Allegations of a US conspiracy
Among his supporters’ claims was the accusation the US had been conspiring with Khan’s critics to oust him from office.
Khan, 69, led the nuclear-armed country of 220 million for three and half years. He was not present for the vote and has since made no comment.
The house voted after the country’s powerful army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, met Khan – two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said – as criticism mounted over the delay in the parliamentary process.
That meeting was seen as ominous by parliamentary observers because military juntas have controlled Pakistan for almost half of its 75-year history.
“They (the military) don’t want to be seen as supporting him and be blamed for his failures,” opposition leader and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told Reuters.
‘A new dawn’
The front-runner to become Pakistan’s next prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, said Khan’s ouster was a chance for a new beginning.
“A new dawn has started … This alliance will rebuild Pakistan,” Sharif, 70, said.
Khan’s removal extends Pakistan’s unenviable record for political instability: no prime minister has completed a full term since independence from Britain in 1947, although Khan is the first to be removed through a no-confidence vote.
Reema Omar, South Asia legal adviser to the International Commission of Jurists, said Khan’s rule had been marked by “incompetence, extreme censorship, assault on independent judges, political persecution, bitter polarisation and division and, finally, brazen subversion of the Constitution.”