Pakistan Court Rules Blocking Vote to Oust Khan Unconstitutional

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Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court says Prime Minister Imran Khan’s move to dissolve parliament was illegal and ordered the house be restored.

The decision on Thursday came after four days of hearings by the top court. Khan will now face a no-confidence vote by lawmakers that he had tried to sidestep. The assembly will likely convene to vote on Saturday.

A major political crisis was triggered when Khan and his allies thwarted the motion by opposition lawmakers that seemed certain to unseat him.

The move “is declared to be contrary to the constitution and of no legal effect and is set aside”, the court ruled.

Khan dissolved parliament on Sunday and set the stage for early elections after accusing the opposition of being part of a “foreign conspiracy” to remove him from power.

His opponents had garnered the 172 votes needed to oust him in the 342-seat house after several members of his own party and a key coalition partner defected. But the deputy speaker of parliament, a member of Khan’s party, threw out the no-confidence motion.

The opposition claimed Khan violated the constitution and took its case to the country’s top court.

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial read out the decision and said the steps taken for the formation of a caretaker government ahead of elections were also unconstitutional.

Opposition leaders came out of the court showing victory signs as supporters shouted vociferously.

“I congratulate the entire nation,” said Maulana Fazalur Rehman, chief of the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). “This is the victory of the constitution and the entire nation.”

Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif told reporters it was a landmark day for the country.

“The Supreme Court has given a verdict which has not only safeguarded the constitution but Pakistan,” said Sharif.

Earlier on Thursday, the fourth day of hearings, Khan’s lawyers defended the controversial move and said the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction to intervene in parliamentary affairs.

The stand-off threw the country of 220 million people into a full-blown constitutional crisis and sent its currency to all-time lows against the dollar on Thursday.

Pakistan’s top court or its powerful military have consistently stepped in whenever turmoil engulfs a democratically elected government in the South Asian nation. The army has seized power and ruled for more than half of Pakistan’s 75-year history.

(Pakistan’s opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif, leaves after a hearing outside the Supreme Court building in Islamabad)

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