ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday said the formation of a caretaker government in the South Asian country was subject to its verdict in a case pertaining to the blocking of a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan and the subsequent dissolution of parliament.
Pakistan’s National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri on Sunday threw the South Asian nation into a political crisis, when he refused to allow a scheduled voting on the no-confidence motion in light of it being orchestrated by a foreign power, and dismissed the motion on grounds it was “unconstitutional.”
The president then dissolved the National Assembly on the advice of the prime minister so new elections could be held. The moves have since triggered a political and constitutional crisis in Pakistan.
The dramatic episode was the latest in an escalating dispute between Khan and parliament, after defectors from his own party and coalition partners joined the opposition and attempted to oust him from power. Khan alleges the campaign to topple his government is a foreign conspiracy orchestrated by the United States in connivance with his political opponents. The US has denied the allegations.
Opposition parties say the deputy speaker’s dismissal of the no-trust motion without a vote and the subsequent dissolution of the National Assembly are both unconstitutional.
“The formation of the caretaker government remains subject to the court ruling. We want to dispose it [the case] off tomorrow,” Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial, who is heading a larger bench of the apex court, remarked at Tuesday’s hearing.
“The formation of the caretaker government is on hold due to this case.”
President Arif Alvi on Monday initiated the process of appointment of the caretaker prime minister after the dissolution of the assembly by writing separate letters to the prime minister and the opposition leader. In response to the president’s letter, PM Khan has nominated former chief justice Gulzar Ahmed for the post.
The opposition leader has refused to become part of the exercise, saying the dissolution of the parliament was “unconstitutional.”
During Tuesday’s proceedings, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) opposition party counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan requested the court to seek an “in-camera briefing” on the alleged foreign conspiracy from the intelligence chief.
“We don’t want to interfere in the state or foreign policy,” the chief justice said. “We don’t want to indulge in policy matters.”
Raza Rabbani, counsel of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), urged the court to declare the speaker’s ruling “unconstitutional” and reinstate the assembly. He moved the court to seek minutes of the National Security Committee (NSC) meeting that termed the US letter as “blatant interference” in Pakistan’s domestic politics and the letter itself.
“It was not disclosed on what basis the speaker gave the ruling,” Rabbani said. “Any judicial order or inquiry report on the conspiracy was not available to the speaker.”
He termed dissolution of parliament a “civilian martial law,” saying the prime minister could not dissolve the assembly after a no-confidence motion was filed against him.
The court then adjourned the hearing till Wednesday.
The counsels representing the president, prime minister, speaker and others will begin their arguments on Wednesday.
Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan has requested the court to allow him to speak on the case the day after tomorrow, saying this was a case of “national importance” and he wanted to assist the court in detail.
“This is going to be the most important case of my life,” the attorney general added.
Speaking on the court’s premises, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said Pakistan was slipping into a crisis and therefore the court should decide on the case on priority.
“You [Khan] have thrown Pakistan into the confrontation between two super powers, America and Russia, just to save your integrity, but you couldn’t keep it,” she said.