• Monday, April 15, 2024


Pakistan’s top court resumes hearing on prime minister Khan’s bid to stay on

FILE PHOTO: Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan (Photo: AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images).

By: Sarwar Alam

Pakistan’s top court resumed deliberations on Tuesday about the legality of prime minister Imran Khan’s attempt to block an opposition bid to oust him, a dispute that has led to political turmoil in the nuclear-armed country.

Former cricket star Khan lost his parliamentary majority last week and had been facing a no-confidence vote tabled by a united opposition that he was expected to lose on Sunday.

But the deputy speaker of parliament, a member of Khan’s party, threw out the motion, ruling it was part of a foreign conspiracy and unconstitutional. Khan then dissolved parliament.

The stand-off has thrown the country of 220 million people, ruled by the military ruled for extended periods since independence in 1947, into a full-blown constitutional crisis.

The opposition has challenged Khan’s decision in a legal case in the Supreme Court that began on Monday.

The court reconvened about noon (0700 GMT) on Tuesday, with politicians from Khan’s party and the opposition among those in a crowded courtroom. The panel of five judges hearing arguments has not said when it might give a ruling.

The court could order that parliament be reconstituted, call for a new election or bar Khan from standing again if he is found to have acted unconstitutionally. Read full story

The court could also decide that it cannot intervene in parliamentary affairs.

Drawn-out legal proceedings would create a power vacuum with political and economic implications for issues such as talks with the International Monetary Fund to secure funds to support the cash-strapped economy. Read full story

Political chaos would also worry the powerful military, which has stepped in to oust civilian governments and rule on three occasions, citing the need to end political uncertainty.

Shehbaz Sharif, the opposition candidate to replace Khan as prime minister, told media outside the court that he had urged army and intelligence chiefs to look into Khan’s accusations that opposition parties were part of a foreign conspiracy.

Political analysts say the military viewed Khan and his conservative agenda favourably when he won a general election in 2018 but the generals’ support has since waned.

Khan denied ever having the backing of the military and the military says it has no involvement in the political process.

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