Pakistan was thrown into fresh political turmoil yesterday after the country's supreme court disqualified Yousuf Raza Gilani, the prime minister, from holding office.
The coalition government held talks last night, with indications that political leaders could make an immediate decision on selecting a new prime minister, rather than challenging the decision.
The removal of Mr Gilani will mean months of wrangling and inaction before elections next year, at a time when Pakistan is struggling with the Taliban insurgency, fraught relations with the US and power cuts that have prompted riots.
The government has also faced a long-running confrontation with Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Pakistan's chief justice.
In April, Mr Gilani was convicted of contempt of court for refusing to ask Swiss authorities to reopen corruption proceedings against President Asif Ali Zardari. Yesterday he was told he could no longer hold office.
Imran Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician, who along with Nawaz Sharif, the main opposition leader, asked the Supreme Court to disqualify Mr Gilani, said the judgment struck a blow for ordinary people against the "kleptocracy".
"This is a landmark decision for Pakistan," he said. "For the first time in our history a powerful man has been brought under the rule of law."