Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has won a vote of confidence that he sought from the lower house of parliament, following a surprise electoral defeat on a Senate seat earlier this week.
Khan is the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, which leads a ruling coalition, and was elected to power in a general election in 2018.
The prime minister received 178 votes reposing confidence in his leadership in the 342-member National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, Speaker Asad Qaiser said following Saturday’s vote.
“Consequently, Mr Imran Khan has obtained the vote of confidence from the National Assembly and commands the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly as the prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” he said.
On Friday, the opposition’s 10-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) announced that it would boycott the vote, and the opposition benches were almost entirely deserted throughout the proceedings on Saturday.
Mohsin Dawar, an independent candidate and leader in the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) rights group, was the sole member of the opposition present in the house during the vote.
The vote will help shore up Khan’s hold on power, following the defeat of his finance minister, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, to the opposition’s Yusuf Raza Gilani in a Senate race on Wednesday.
Addressing the house following the vote, a defiant Khan attacked the opposition for alleged corruption and demanded the Election Commission conduct an inquiry into the Senate race, including taking “a secret briefing from Pakistan’s [intelligence] agencies”.
While Khan’s PTI made gains in the Senate election for 48 members of the 100-member upper house of parliament on Wednesday, Shaikh’s defeat in the race was seen as a blow to his power, as that vote also took place in the National Assembly.
Pakistan’s senators are elected for staggered six-year terms by members of the country’s provincial assemblies and the National Assembly.
The process, conducted by secret ballot, has long been marred by allegations of vote buying, with results often running counter to party voting policies.
This week, the Supreme Court nullified a government ordinance requiring the vote to be conducted by open and public ballot.
Following the Senate election, an angry Khan accused the opposition of having engaged in corrupt practices in order to pressure him to grant them amnesty in his government’s anti-corruption drive.
In an address to the nation on Thursday, Khan alleged the opposition had “bought” the votes of members of his ruling party or his allies in order to win Gilani’s Senate seat.
“The reason for [the secret ballot] was that they planned that this election of Hafeez Shaikh and Yusuf Raza Gilani, they wanted to spend their money on it, use all of efforts to try and buy our parliamentarians [to win],” he said.
“And this was to show that somehow Imran Khan has lost his majority [in parliament]. The next step was to bring a vote of no-confidence … the real reason was to use a vote of confidence as a sword over my head to blackmail me into giving them [amnesty].”
Instead, Khan’s party sought Saturday’s vote of confidence of its own volition, with the motion presented by foreign minister and senior party leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Saturday.
Earlier on Saturday, leaders of the opposition PML-N party Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Ahsan Iqbal, Musadik Malik and Marriyum Aurangzeb held a press conference outside parliament.
Video footage showed scuffles between the party leaders and a crowd of Khan’s supporters, who surrounded them soon after they began speaking.
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.