Pakistan will hold general elections on May 11, a presidential spokesman said on Wednesday, paving the way for a caretaker government to be set up to handle preparations.
Pakistan's government completed its full five-year term on Saturday - the first in the country's turbulent history to do so - amid Taliban violence, record sectarian unrest, chronic power cuts and a fragile economy.
The opposition leader and ruling party must agree on a list of officials to head the caretaker administration.
The United States, a major aid donor despite strained ties with Pakistan in recent years, will be closely watching the elections in a country where the military shapes foreign policy with the help of the powerful intelligence agencies.
Nuclear-armed Pakistan is a key in ally in the U.S. fight against Islamist militancy and its cooperation is seen as vital in efforts to bring stability to neighbouring Afghanistan.