Pakistan’s embattled prime minister Imran Khan faces a tough no-confidence vote Saturday introduced by his political opponents, who say they have the votes to defeat him.
A combined opposition that spans the political spectrum from left to radically religious says it has the 172 votes it needs in Pakistan’s 342-seat Parliament to oust him.
Khan took to national television on the eve of the vote calling on supporters to take to the streets to protest on Sunday, an indication he believed he would lose the vote.
Pakistan’s five-member Supreme Court on Thursday blocked Khan’s bid to stay in power, ruling that his move to dissolve Parliament and call early elections was illegal.
Thursday’s court decision set the stage for a no-confidence vote, which was likely to go against Khan after several of his ruling party members and a small but key coalition partner defected.
In a brief exchange in Parliament on Saturday, opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif warned against further delays.
Sharif is a likely candidate to replace Khan should Khan lose the vote, which the opposition introduced last month accusing the prime minister of economic mismanagement that has driven up prices and interest rates.
Khan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, meanwhile, demanded an investigation into ruling party allegations that the no-confidence vote was a ploy by the opposition and America to unseat Khan, who was not present.
Qureshi resumed a speech to Parliament in the afternoon in what some opposition lawmakers said was a delaying tactic by the government.
In an impassioned speech Friday, 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 favor China and Russia and defied U.S. criticism.
Khan said Washington opposed his Feb. 24 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin hours after tanks rolled into Ukraine launching a devastating war in the heart of Europe.
The U.S. State Department has denied any involvement in Pakistan’s internal politics. Deputy State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters on Friday there was “absolutely no truth to these allegations.”
“Of course, we continue to follow these developments and support Pakistan’s constitutional process, but again these allegations are absolutely not true,” she said.
Khan who is 69, has been serving as prime minister of Pakistan since his election in 2018.
Khan was an international cricketer and captain of the Pakistan national cricket team, which he led to victory in the 1992 Cricket World Cup.
He was chancellor of the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom from 2005 to 2014.
He is also the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).