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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Monday adjourned the hearing of oral arguments in a case concerning the blocking of a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan in parliament and the subsequent dissolution of the National Assembly.
National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri plunged the South Asian country into a political crisis on Sunday when he refused to allow the planned vote on the motion on the grounds that it was orchestrated by a foreign power, and rejected it on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.
The President then dissolved the National Assembly on the advice of the Prime Minister so that new elections could be held. These measures triggered a political and constitutional crisis in Pakistan.
The dramatic episode was the latest in a growing dispute between Khan and parliament, after defectors from his own party and coalition partners joined the opposition and tried to oust him from power. Khan alleges that the campaign to overthrow his government is a foreign conspiracy orchestrated by the United States in collusion with its political opponents. The United States has denied the allegations.
Opposition parties claim that the vice president’s rejection of the no-confidence motion without a vote and the subsequent dissolution of the National Assembly are unconstitutional.
“We cannot make a judgment in the air, the verdict will be given after hearing everyone,” Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial said when opposition lawyer Farook H. Naik pressed the court to conclude the case on Monday.
The courtroom was packed with lawyers, civil society members and opposition leaders, including Shehbaz Sharif, as the wider bench of the Supreme Court includes Chief Justice Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Judge Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Judge Munib Akhtar and Judge Jamal Khan Mandokhail. heard the case.
During the proceedings, Naik told the court that the vice president did not seek the opposition’s views before issuing Sunday’s ruling.
“All members of the opposition are accused of being traitors,” he said when asked by Judge Akhtar for his opinion on lawmakers who had left Khan’s party to join the opposition.
The Chief Justice pointed out that the president’s decision mentioned a parliamentary committee where the government intended to share evidence of the alleged plot against him.
“The opposition intentionally did not participate in the committee,” Bandial said. “The whole issue was presented to the parliamentary committee on national security.”
The chief justice said all opposition party lawyers are expected to answer questions from the court.
The opposition lawyer said the court is expected to conclude the case on Monday because the assembly was dissolved and the president was already seeking names from the prime minister and opposition leader for an interim prime minister.
“We heard from you for two hours today and all the lawyers could have finished your arguments,” the chief justice said, and adjourned the hearing until Tuesday.
Earlier, the opposition lawyer asked the court to appoint a full court to hear the case, but the chief justice rejected it.
Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaf lawyer Babar Awan told the court at the start of the hearing that Khan was ready to hold new elections.
“It’s a political statement,” Bandial said. “We want to stick strictly to the legality of the matter.”
After the hearing, opposition leaders said the court should overturn the president’s decision and reinstate the assembly.
“We are a democratic country and cannot become hostage to one person’s ego,” Qamar Zaman Kaira, a senior Pakistan People’s Party official, told media. “Prime Minister Imran Khan has made a civilian coup which must be reversed immediately to uphold the rule of law and the constitution in Pakistan.”
Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision, Pakistan appears to be heading for fresh elections before the current term of parliament and prime minister ends next year.
If Khan wins, the polls will take place within 90 days. The opposition also wants early elections, but after delivering a political defeat to Khan by ousting him by a parliamentary vote.