Pakistan’s Supreme Court will resume the hearing on Tuesday (April 5) afternoon on the dismissal of a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Imran Khan and the dissolution of Parliament by the President on the advice of the embattled premier, a day after adjourning the proceedings after promising to give a “reasonable order” in the high-profile case.
The apex court had taken a suo motu cognizance of the current political situation in the country. President Arif Alvi had dissolved the National Assembly (NA) on the advice of Prime Minister Khan, minutes after Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri rejected a no-confidence motion against the premier, who had effectively lost the majority in the 342-member lower house of Parliament on Sunday.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said that all orders and actions initiated by the prime minister and the president regarding the dissolution of the National Assembly will be subject to the court’s order. On Monday, a larger bench of the apex court – comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail – took up the matter after Deputy Speaker Suri rejected the move to dislodge the prime minister by declaring the no-trust motion unmaintainable due to its link with a so-called foreign conspiracy.
President Alvi, the Supreme Court Bar Association and all political parties have been made respondents in the case. Lawyers from the government and opposition presented their argument regarding the ruling by the deputy speaker. During the arguments, Chief Justice Bandial said that even if the Speaker of the National Assembly cites Article 5 of the Constitution, the no-confidence motion cannot be rejected, Geo News reported. If Khan gets a favourable ruling, elections will take place within 90 days. If the court rules against the deputy speaker, the parliament will reconvene and hold the no-confidence vote against Khan, experts said.
Chief Justice Bandial had earlier in the day said the court would issue a “reasonable order” on the issue on Monday. During the proceedings, Justice Ahsan noted that there were violations in the proceedings of the no-trust resolution, Dawn reported. Justice Bandial observed that a debate before voting on the no-confidence motion had been clearly mentioned in the law but didn’t take place.
Meanwhile, Justice Akhtar expressed dubiousness over the deputy speaker’s constitutional authority to pass such a ruling, the paper said. “In my opinion,” he said, “only the speaker had the right to pass the ruling. “The deputy speaker chairs the session on the non-availability of the speaker.” Justice Bandial also observed that the deputy speaker’s ruling mentioned the meeting of the parliamentary committee for security. “The opposition deliberately didn’t attend the meeting,” he said.
The decision of the court, likely on Tuesday afternoon, would also determine the legality of the presidential order to dissolve the National Assembly.
Not possible to hold general elections in three months: Pakistan Election Commission
Pakistan’s election commission has expressed its inability to hold general elections within three months due to legal, constitutional and logistical challenges, according to a media report on Tuesday.
According to the Dawn newspaper, a senior official of the Election Commission said due to fresh delimitation of constituencies, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the number of seats was increased under the 26th Amendment, and bringing district-and constituency-wise electoral rolls in conformity were the major challenges, the preparations for the general elections would require some six months.
Another concern is the constitutional and legal status of the current delimitation of seats of the national and provincial assemblies since it was carried out on the basis of provisional results of the 2017 census. Similarly, confusion continues to shroud the practicality and enforcement of the recent amendments to the Elections Act, 2017, pertaining to the use of EVMs and the facilitation of overseas Pakistanis to vote in their country of residence, which were passed by a joint sitting of parliament without the support of the opposition parties.
(With inputs from agencies)