Former cricket star Imran Khan ousted as Pakistan's prime minister after losing no confidence vote

Former cricket star Imran Khan has been ousted as Pakistan's prime minister after he failed to survive a no confidence vote in his leadership.

Ahead of the vote, Mr Khan had said that if he lost he would not recognise an opposition government, claiming - without evidence - that there was a US-led conspiracy to remove him and called on his supporters to stage nationwide rallies on Sunday.

Subsequently, giant steel containers were stacked on top of each other, blocking main roads leading to Parliament and to the diplomatic enclave in the capital of Islamabad.

Pakistan’s political opposition ousted the embattled PM in a no confidence vote which they won after several of Mr Khan’s allies and a key coalition party deserted him.

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

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Mr Khan’s options are now limited and should he see a big turnout in his support, he may try to keep the momentum of street protests as a way to pressure Parliament to hold early elections.

Mr Khan earlier had tried to sidestep the vote by dissolving Parliament and calling early elections but a Supreme Court ruling ordered the vote to go ahead.

In an impassioned speech on Friday, Mr Khan doubled-down on his accusations that his opponents colluded with the United States to unseat him over his foreign policy choices, which often seemed to favour China and Russia and defied the US. Mr Khan said Washington opposed his February 24 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, just hours after tanks rolled into Ukraine, launching a devastating war in the heart of Europe.

The US State Department has denied any involvement in Pakistan’s internal politics. Deputy State Department spokesperson Jalina Porter told reporters on Friday there was “absolutely no truth to these allegations.”

Still, Mr 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 needed to protect Pakistan’s sovereignty and oppose US dictations.

“You have to come out to protect your own future. It is you who have to protect your democracy, your sovereignty and your independence... This is your duty,” he said.

“I will not accept an imposed government.”

Imran Khan became the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2018 after his party won the largest number of seats. Credit: AP

The no-confidence vote loss for Mr Khan may bring to power some unlikely partners.

Among them is a radically religious party that runs scores of religious schools. The Jamiat-e-Ulema-Islam, or Assembly of Clerics, teaches a deeply conservative brand of Islam in its schools. Many of Afghanistan’s Taliban and Pakistan’s own homegrown violent Taliban graduated from JUI schools.

The largest among the opposition parties — the Pakistan People’s Party, led by the son of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and the Pakistan Muslim League — have been tainted by allegations of widespread corruption.

Pakistan Muslim League leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was convicted of corruption after being named in the so-called Panama Papers, a collection of leaked secret financial documents showing how some of the world’s richest hide their money and involving a global law firm based in Panama.

Mr Sharif was disqualified by Pakistan’s Supreme Court from holding office.