Pakistani court adjourns hearing on Prime Minister Khan’s vote blocking | Political news
Pakistan’s top court has adjourned without ruling on the legality of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s actions in blocking an opposition bid to impeach him, a move that has led to political unrest in the South Asian nation.
Khan, a former cricket star, lost his majority in parliament last week as his opponents shored up support ahead of a no-confidence vote due to take place on Sunday.
But the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, a member of Khan’s party, rejected the motion of no confidence which Khan was supposed to lose, ruling it was part of a foreign conspiracy and unconstitutional. Khan then dissolved parliament.
The standoff plunged the country of 220 million people, which the military has ruled for almost half of its history since independence in 1947, into a full-scale constitutional crisis.
Pakistan’s opposition challenged Khan’s decision in a court case that began on Monday, with a five-member bench of the Supreme Court hearing arguments in a crowded courtroom.
The court did not deliver a verdict at the three-hour hearing and will return on Tuesday.
“The decision was illegal – why?” Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked Pakistani opposition lawyers.
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 in 2023.
If Khan wins, the polls will take place within 90 days. The opposition also wants a snap election, but after inflicting a political defeat on Khan by impeaching him through a parliamentary vote.
A notice Monday from President Arif Alvi to Khan and opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif said they should agree on a new interim prime minister, but Sharif refused to cooperate.
“How can we respond to a letter written by a person who abrogated the constitution? he called for a press conference on Monday.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari accused Khan of “violating the constitution”.
“There is a legal way to remove the Prime Minister: the motion of censure. Imran Khan, just for the sake of his ego, has sabotaged the non-trust process by violating the Constitution,” he told reporters in the capital Islamabad, Dawn News reported.
Khan has also dissolved the cabinet and wants a general election within 90 days, although that decision is officially up to the president and the election commission and depends on the outcome of the hearing.
The largely ceremonial head of state, President Alvi, said in a statement that Khan would remain prime minister in an interim role until an interim prime minister is appointed under whose leadership a general election would take place.
Alvi wrote to both Khan and Sharif, asking them to come up with names for an interim prime minister within three days, the president’s office said in a statement.
As the opposition rushed to react, Khan taunted them on Twitter on Sunday.
“Astonished by the reaction,” he tweeted, adding that the opposition had “cried their hearts out” over the government’s failure and loss of popular support.
“So why the fear of elections now?”
But the holding of an election largely depends on the outcome of the legal proceedings.
The Supreme Court could order parliament to be reconstituted, call new elections or bar Khan from running again if he is found to have acted unconstitutionally.
The court could also decide that it cannot intervene in parliamentary business.
FAFEN, an independent Pakistani election observer network, said it had “identified multiple constitutional, legal and operational challenges to the conduct of early elections”.
The group highlighted the under-registration of women, the hiring of scrutineers and the publication of election materials among the challenges.
Khan has accused opposition figures of plotting to impeach him with the help of the United States.
“Legislators who were part of an international plot to overthrow the government only care about their personal interests and would no longer be accepted in politics,” he said during a live broadcast on Monday.
On Friday, members of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party staged protests in different cities, with some sharing videos on social media of the American flag being set ablaze in Peshawar.
The White House has denied that the United States is seeking to oust Khan from power.
Q Zaman contributed to this report from Islamabad