Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday struck down National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri's move to dismiss a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a major blow to the cricketer-turned politician, and ordered the National Assembly be restored.
Mr. Suri, who is associated with Mr. Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, on April 3 dismissed the no-confidence motion against the Premier claiming that it was linked to a "foreign conspiracy" to topple the government and hence was not maintainable. Minutes later, President Ari Alvi dissolved the National Assembly on the advice of Prime Minister Khan who had effectively lost the majority.
Chief Justice Bandial, who is heading a five-member Bench comprising Justices Ijazul Ahsan, Mohammad Ali Mazhar Miankhel, Munib Akhtar and Jamal Khan Mandokhel, declared as unconstitutional the controversial ruling by the Deputy Speaker.
In a unanimous verdict, the Bench also declared dissolution of Parliament as unconstitutional.
The Bench restored Parliament and declared the advice by Mr. Khan to President Alvi to dissolve the Assembly as unconstitutional. The court ordered the Speaker to call the session of the Assembly on April 9 at 10 a.m. to organise the no-confidence vote.
The Opposition has said it has 172 votes in the 340-seat House to oust Mr. Khan, after several members of his own party and a key coalition partner defected.
Security beefed up
Security in and around the apex court was beefed up. Riot police forces were deployed outside the court building.
During the hearing, Chief Justice Bandial noted that the Deputy Speaker's ruling was prima facie a violation of Article 95.
Apart from leading lawyers representing various parties, the court called at the rostrum Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president and main opposition leader, and asked about his view on the way forward in the wake of uncertainty due to the dissolution of the Assembly and announcement of fresh elections.
Mr. Shehbaz said how could the opposition leaders take part in the election after being labelled as “traitors”. He left it to the court to decide but urged that rule of law should be adhered to and added that “we cannot face even our families after being called as traitors”.
He was referring to the ruling by the Deputy Speaker that the no-confidence motion was linked to a so-called "foreign conspiracy". With the court ruling against the Deputy Speaker, Parliament is likely to reconvene and hold the no-confidence vote against Mr. Khan.
The latest political chaos has spilled over to the country's largest province of Punjab, where 60% of Pakistan's 220 million people live and where Mr. Khan's ally for chief provincial minister was denied the post on Wednesday, after his political opposition voted in their own candidate.