Khan, facing the most difficult task of his political career, demanded that the country’s president dissolve parliament and urged the nation to prepare for new elections.
Khan had to lose a vote of no confidence, which was supported by an alliance of politicians, including more than a dozen defectors from Khan’s own political party. But in a dramatic reprieve for the struggling leader, the vote was blocked by the vice speaker as “unconstitutional.”
For months, Khan struggled with depleting foreign exchange reserves and double-digit inflation, with the cost of essentials such as food and fuel skyrocketing.
Following the vote, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry stated that Khan would continue to fulfill his duties under Article 224 of the country’s constitution. But without a real precedent for Sunday’s chain of events, it remains somewhat unclear what happens next.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, one of the leaders of the opposition, called Khan’s actions “unconstitutional”, adding that the matter would be considered by the Supreme Court.
Pakistan’s main opposition parties have been pushing for Khan’s resignation since he came to power in 2018 after a dramatic election mired in allegations of voter fraud and foul play.
As disillusionment with Khan’s leadership grew, the opposition filed a motion for a vote of no confidence in parliament, accusing him of mismanaging the country’s economy and foreign policy.
They called for Khan to step down ahead of the vote. Khan responded by calling them “traitors” and repeatedly stressed his desire to fight against the vote.
Khan’s perceived inability to work in tandem with his allies as well as the country’s powerful military led to a breakdown in relations within his coalition government.
Khan had previously approached defecting legislators to return to his party, promising that they would be forgiven “as a father forgives his children”. He warned that those who voted against him would face social stigma by declaring that no one would marry their children.
Khan urged his supporters in the country of 220 million to take to the streets of the capital Islamabad on Sunday to protest the proposed vote. Security measures have been tightened in the city, police are patrolling the streets. The red zone of the city, where government and military buildings are located, is fenced off by shipping containers.
Last week, tens of thousands of people gathered on the city’s famous parade ground, chanting slogans in favor of Khan, the former international cricket star turned politician.
No Pakistani leader has served a full five-year term as prime minister since the country’s inception in 1947. There are now fears that Khan’s decision to call early elections could lead to further political instability in the South Asian country.