The parliamentary vote, held on Sunday, saw the former cricket star defeated. The opposition needed a minimum of 172 votes from the 342 members of the assembly to expel him.
The no-confidence vote was backed by an alliance of politicians that included more than a dozen defectors from Khan’s own political party.
In its decision, the Supreme Court also struck down Khan’s earlier order to dissolve parliament and call early elections, calling it “without legal effect.”
The speaker of the National Assembly will now send a notice to Khan and convene a new session of parliament to elect a new prime minister.
In an address to the nation on Friday night, Khan repeated unverified claims that the no-confidence vote was the result of a “foreign conspiracy” linked to the United States.
Khan said the United States had singled him out because, unlike his opponents, he could not “easily be used as a puppet by the West” with respect to an independent foreign policy. He said he was not anti-American, but he would not allow his nation “to be used as tissue paper” in a “one-sided relationship.”
He also called for nationwide protests on Sunday against what he said was an attempt to “install” a new government by “foreign powers.”
On Thursday, the US State Department released a statement saying there was “no truth” to Khan’s claims of interference.
“We closely follow developments in Pakistan, and we respect, we support Pakistan’s constitutional process and the rule of law, but when it comes to those allegations, there is no truth to them at all,” the statement said.
Sunday’s vote marked the latest escalation in a weeks-long crisis, in which Khan had already lost the backing of key political allies and the country’s powerful military.
Pakistan, a nation of 220 million, has struggled with political instability since its formation in 1947, with multiple regime changes and military coups. No prime minister has ever completed a full five-year term under the current 1973 constitution.
Khan’s ouster comes just short of four years in office and there are now concerns it could increase the risk of political instability in the South Asian nation.
Economic mismanagement claims
Pakistan’s main opposition parties have rallied in favor of Khan’s ouster since he came to power in 2018 after an election plagued by accusations of electoral fraud and foul play.
Khan’s response has been to repeat his claims that the US is fomenting opposition to him.
His inability to work together with his allies and the military caused relations within his coalition government to break down.
As frustration with his leadership grew, the opposition tabled a motion for a no-confidence motion in parliament. They had urged Khan to resign before the vote.
Instead, Khan called a snap election last Sunday in a dramatic bid to cling to power after the deputy speaker of parliament blocked a no-confidence motion against him, which seemed almost certain to succeed.
The move, and Khan’s subsequent dissolution of parliament, angered an opposition that has for months demanded his ouster.
The opposition responded by accusing Khan of treason and asking Pakistan’s highest court to rule on whether the prime minister had violated the constitution. Thursday’s decision by the Supreme Court paved the way for Khan’s impeachment.
Khan’s rise in politics
Arguably Pakistan’s best-known prime minister in recent decades, Khan has made a name for himself as a politician, philanthropist and sports star in his country and around the world.
Born in 1952 into a wealthy family in the city of Lahore, he received a prestigious education, completing a BA in philosophy, politics and economics from Oxford University.
After debuting for the Pakistani cricket team in 1971, he became one of the best players of his generation.
With his eyes set on politics, he exploited his superstar popularity to become one of Pakistan’s most formidable politicians.
Irritated by the continuing state of corruption in the country, he founded his own political party in 1996, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), or Movement for Justice.
Khan won a seat in parliament in 2002, but his party largely languished in the political desert. In the summer of 2013, with a crop of new voters raised on stories of Khan’s magic, the PTI won that year’s general election, though it failed to win a majority.
He led thousands of protesters into Islamabad against then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, shutting down the capital in August 2014 during a months-long sit-in that became known as the Azadi march, or freedom movement.
In 2018, after more than two decades of political struggles, Khan achieved his cherished dream of becoming prime minister, promising a “new Pakistan” and vowing to eradicate poverty and corruption.
His tenure saw him face numerous obstacles, from rising inflation to a global pandemic. Khan’s government has also dealt with record slumps in foreign exchange reserves, and last year he accepted a $6 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
In 2019, escalating hostilities between Pakistan and neighboring India led to clashes between the two nuclear-armed states. But diplomacy on both sides led to a simmering stalemate that lasted throughout Khan’s term, with the Pakistani leader widely praised for his professional and peaceful conduct.
In August 2021, Khan watched closely as the Taliban began their insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan has strong ties to the extremist group and has been accused of supporting the Taliban as they fought the US-backed government, charges Islamabad denies.
For much of his tenure, Khan pushed anti-American rhetoric, blaming the United States for the situation in Afghanistan. In a sign of frayed relations, US President Joe Biden and Khan have not spoken since Biden took office last year.
Under Khan’s leadership, Pakistan maintained close relations with China. Strong economic, diplomatic and military ties mean Islamabad is one of Beijing’s closest allies in the region, while China has also invested heavily in Pakistan in recent years through its Belt and Road trade and infrastructure scheme.
Khan also refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prompting new calls from the opposition for him to step down.
On a state visit last month, Khan met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on February 24, the day Russia began its attack on its democratically-ruled neighbor.
With critics citing poor foreign policy decisions and spiraling inflation, Khan won a vote of confidence from parliament just over a year ago. But on Saturday his luck ran out.