Supreme Court goes against Imran Khan, declares dissolution of parliament unconstitutional
Top court throws out attempt to block non-confidence vote, which Pakistan’s prime minister blamed on a “foreign conspiracy” led by the US. The National Assembly will sit this Sunday to vote. Court’s ruling came tonight amid high tensions.
Islamabad (AsiaNews) – The Supreme Court of Pakistan this evening ruled unconstitutional an attempt by the deputy speaker of the National Assembly to block a non-confidence motion against the government of Imran Khan, who claimed that it was inspired by a "foreign conspiracy”.
As a result of the court’s decision, the dissolution of parliament decreed by Pakistani President Arif Alvi is also unconstitutional and the National Assembly must be reinstated in its functions.
Pakistan’s top court ordered parliament to reconvene on Sunday for a session that cannot be adjourned before the non-confidence vote is held.
This comes amid a very tense situation in Islamabad at the end of four days of hearings conducted by a panel of five judges headed by the Chief Justice Umar Atal Bandial. The decision was approved unanimously.
The constitutional crisis began when Imran Khan blamed the non-confidence motion against him on “foreign powers” irked by his foreign policy choices, such as his visit to Moscow last month after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Pakistan’s increasing economic dependence on China at the expense of military ties with the United States.
Khan, who heads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, expressly pointed the finger at a US diplomat, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu who said that there would be consequences if his government survived the non-confidence vote.
The head of the Pakistani army, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa responded indirectly, condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and saying: “We share a long history of excellent and strategic relationship with the United States”.
On 3 April, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri, an ally of Imran Khan, dismissed the non-confidence vote against the government, citing Article 5 of the Pakistani constitution, which upholds the principle of “loyalty to the state”. According to the deputy speaker, the lawmakers who left the coalition led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had violated that principle.
Immediately afterwards, Pakistani President Arif Alvi, also a member of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, dissolved parliament on the prime minister's advice with elections within 90 days, a move rejected by opposition parties, which the Supreme Court took up on its own.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) also waded into the affair, rejecting President Alvi's request for a vote within 90 days because they could not be held "honestly, justly and fairly" before October.
Such a delay was needed since the government itself had not completed the process of delimitating constituencies to reflect changes from the last census, which parliament approved in a constitutional amendment that increased the number of seats, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.