Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan lost a confidence vote in parliament on Sunday, the speaker of the lower house said, following desertions from coalition partners who blame him for a deteriorating economy and failure to deliver on his campaign promises.
The announcement of the vote's result came just before 0100 (2000 GMT) after multiple adjournments in the lower house caused by members of Khan's party, who said there was a foreign conspiracy to oust the cricket star-turned-politician.
Opposition parties were able to secure 174 votes in the 342-member house in support of the no-confidence motion, presiding Speaker Ayaz Sadiq said, making it a majority vote. There were just a few legislators of Khan's ruling party present for the vote.
The voting came after the country's powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa met Khan, two sources said, as criticism mounted over the delay in the parliamentary process.
Opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif is the front-runner to lead the nuclear-armed nation of 220 million, where the military has ruled for half its history.
Shehbaz, 70, the younger brother of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif, has a reputation as an effective administrator.
Khan, 69, surged to power in 2018 with the military's support, but recently lost his parliamentary majority when allies quit his coalition government. There were also signs he had lost the support of the military, analysts said.
Opposition parties say he has failed to revive an economy battered by COVID-19 or fulfil promises to make Pakistan a corruption-free, prosperous nation respected on the world stage.
His ouster extends Pakistan's unwanted record for political instability: No prime minister has completed their full term since independence in 1947, although Khan is the first to be removed through a no-confidence vote.
The Pakistani parliament's lower house will meet on Monday to vote for a new prime minister
Ayaz Sadiq, presiding over the assembly session in the absence of the ruling party members and its designated speakers, said nomination papers for candidates should be filed by 11:00 am local time (0600 GMT) on Sunday.