Pakistan’s embattled prime minister overthrown in no-confidence vote

ISLAMABAD (AP) – Pakistan’s political opposition ousted the country’s embattled prime minister on Saturday in a no-confidence vote it won after several of Imran Khan’s allies and a key coalition party left him.

The united opposition, which spans the political spectrum from the left to the radically religious, will form the new government, with the leader of one of the largest parties, the Pakistani Muslim League, taking over as prime minister.

In anticipation of his loss, Khan, who has accused his opposition of colluding with the United States to unseat him, has urged his supporters to hold rallies across the country on Sunday. Khan’s options are limited and should he see a large turnout supporting his support, he could try to keep the momentum of the street protests up to pressure Parliament to hold early elections.

Khan had previously attempted to circumvent the vote by dissolving parliament and calling snap elections, but a Supreme Court ruling ordered the vote to be held.

In an impassioned speech on Friday, Khan reiterated his accusations that his opponents had colluded with the United States to overthrow him over his foreign policy decisions, which often appeared to favor China and Russia and oppose the US

Khan said Washington opposed his Feb. 24 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, hours after tanks rolled into Ukraine and a devastating war began 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 Friday that “there is absolutely no truth to these claims.”

Nonetheless, 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 must protect Pakistan’s sovereignty and oppose US dictates.

“You must come out to protect your own future. They are the ones who must protect your democracy, your sovereignty and your independence. … That is your duty,” he said. “I will not accept imposed government.”

Khan’s options are limited and should he see a large turnout, he could try to keep the momentum of the street protests going to pressure parliament to dissolve and hold early elections.

The no-confidence vote in Khan could bring some unlikely partners to power.

Among them is a radical religious party that runs numerous religious schools. Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam, or Assembly of Clergy, teaches a deeply conservative Islam in its schools. Many of the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan’s own domestic violent Taliban graduated from JUI schools.

The largest of the opposition parties – the Pakistan People’s Party, led by the son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and the Pakistan Muslim League – have been battered by allegations of widespread corruption.

Pakistan Muslim League leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was found guilty of corruption after being named in the so-called Panama Papers. This is a collection of leaked secret financial documents showing how some of the world’s wealthiest are hiding their money and involving a global law firm based in Panama. Sharif was ousted from office by Pakistan’s Supreme Court.

If the opposition wins the no-confidence vote, it will be up to Parliament to elect a new head of government, who could be Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif. If the legislature is unsuccessful, snap elections would be called.

Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed in Islamabad and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report. Follow Kathy Gannon on Twitter at

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