Khan, who is facing the toughest challenge of his political career, has asked the country’s president to dissolve parliament and called on the nation to prepare for new elections.
Khan was to lose the motion of no confidence, as the opposition had obtained enough votes. But in a dramatic reprieve for the embattled leader, the vote was blocked as “unconstitutional” by the vice president, citing Articles 5 and 6 of Pakistan’s parliament.
Article 6 states that any “attempt to suspend or suspend the constitution by the use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason”.
“I want to commend our nation through the president for rejecting regime change that was backed by a foreign agenda,” Khan said in an address to the nation after the vote was blocked.
The much-delayed session to hold the no-confidence motion began when Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said it was part of a “foreign plot to implement regime change” in the country, calling it a “treasonous” motion.
The vote was backed by an alliance of politicians – including more than a dozen defectors from Khan’s own political party – who accused him of mismanaging the country’s economy and foreign policy.
Khan had previously called on defecting lawmakers to return to his party, promising they would be forgiven “as a father forgives his children”. He warned that those who voted against him would face social disgrace, saying no one would marry their children.
Khan called on his supporters to gather in the streets of the capital, Islamabad, on Sunday to protest the vote. Security has been tightened around the city, with police patrolling the streets. The city’s red zone, where government and military buildings are located, is cordoned off by shipping containers.
Last week, tens of thousands gathered at the city’s iconic Parade Ground, chanting slogans in support of Khan.
No leader has completed a full five-year term as Pakistan’s prime minister since its formation in 1947. There are now fears that Khan’s move could increase the risk of political instability in the South Asian nation.