Khan, facing the most difficult challenge in his political career, demanded that the president dissolve parliament and called on the nation to prepare for new elections.
Khan was about to lose a vote of no confidence, and the opposition won a sufficient number of votes. However, in a dramatic respite for the cornered leader, the vote was blocked as “unconstitutional” by the deputy speaker.
Following the vote, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Khan would now continue his Art. 224 of the country’s constitution. But without a real precedent for Sunday’s chain of events, it remains somewhat unclear what will happen next.
Opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari called Khan’s move “unconstitutional,” adding that the case would be dealt with by the Supreme Court.
The main opposition parties in Pakistan have been fighting for Khan’s dismissal since he came to power in 2018 after a dramatic election mired in accusations of vote-rigging and foul play.
For months, Khan has been battling the depletion of foreign exchange reserves and double-digit inflation that has driven prices for staples including food and fuel to skyrocket in a country of 220 million. His failure to cooperate with allies and the country’s powerful army led to a breakdown in relations in his government coalition.
As frustration with his leadership grew, the opposition filed a motion of no confidence in parliament. They called on Khan to resign before the vote.
Khan took revenge, calling them “traitors” and repeatedly emphasized his willingness to fight the vote.
Sunday’s vote of no confidence was backed by an alliance of politicians – including a dozen deserters from Khan’s own political party – who accused him of mismanaging the country’s economy and foreign policy.
Khan previously called on fugitive lawmakers to return to his party, promising to be forgiven “as a father forgives his children.” He warned that those who voted against him would face social disgrace, saying no one would marry their children.
Khan called on his supporters to gather in the streets of the capital, Islamabad, on Sunday to protest the vote. Security has increased throughout the city and the police are patrolling the streets. The red zone of the city, where the government and military buildings are located, is fenced off with shipping containers.
Last week, tens of thousands of people gathered at the city’s iconic roll call square chanting slogans in favor of Khan, a former international cricket star turned politician.
No leader has completed the full five-year term of Pakistani prime minister since his inception in 1947. There are now concerns that the Khan move to call early elections could threaten further political instability in the South Asian country.