Pakistan's parliament rejected a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Tuesday after he dismissed accusations of corruption as lies and hailed economic improvement under President Pervez Musharraf.
The fractious opposition united last week to lodge the motion against Aziz, accusing him of neglecting the poor and of corruption.
With the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Q) having the support of about 200 members in the 342-seat assembly, the motion was never expected to pass.
But analysts said the opposition unity displayed in mounting the challenge could herald problems for the government in the run-up to a general election next year.
"The no-confidence motion is a pack of lies and a conspiracy to mislead the people," Aziz told the assembly.
"When President Musharraf assumed power, the country's economy was in a shambles. We're taking the country forward under the leadership of President Musharraf," he said.
In all, 136 members of the lower house voted in favour of the motion, well short of the 172 needed for it to pass.
Musharraf, an important U.S. ally in the war on terrorism, was expected to seek another term as president of his nuclear-armed country next year.
Under the constitution, the president is elected by parliament.
Musharraf, whose term expires in November 2007, has already said he can be re-elected for another term by this assembly, before its dissolution and fresh elections.
Musharraf, who is also army chief, seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999. He has come under pressure from the opposition to give up his army post.
Aziz, a former banker and finance minister, was picked by Musharraf to head the government in 2004.
"ROOT OF EVIL"
The opposition opened the debate with a barrage of criticism of Musharraf.
"Pervez Musharraf and military intervention in politics is the root of the evils plaguing Pakistan," Qazi Hussain Ahmed, leader of an alliance of six religious parties, told the assembly.
Ahmed accused Musharraf of bowing to U.S. pressure to crack down on militants in border areas, and said Aziz and his government were Musharraf's "puppets".
Members of conservative religious parties and the liberal supporters of former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif also criticised the government over the killing of a nationalist rebel leader in Baluchistan province.
Veteran Baluch nationalist politician Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was killed in a government assault on his cave hideout in remote hills in gas-rich Baluchistan province on Saturday.
Aziz did not mention Baluchistan but said the government would not allow "anti-development forces" dictated to by foreigners to damage the integrity of the country.
The government had said Bugti and other autonomy-seeking nationalists, who have been demanding a greater share of the profits from Baluchistan's gas resources, were opposed to development.
It has also accused old rival India of supporting the rebels.