Prime Minister Imran Khan left his opponents all flummoxed as he dissolved Pakistan’s National Assembly on Sunday and called for a fresh set of elections, bypassing the no-trust motion scheduled against the incumbent. Khan’s adversaries have labeled the move as “unconstitutional,” but for the Prime Minister, it’s an opportunity to live to fight another day at the cost of Pakistan descending into a constitutional crisis.
Khan, the cricketer turned politician, went on the defensive and called for mass protests in the capital Islamabad. The crisis was aggravated when defectors from Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) joined with the Opposition threatening to bring down his coalition government. The omnipresent and influential Pakistani Army is said to have withdrawn his backing as well.
Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) or PML(N) President Shehbaz Sharif, who is also the leader of the Opposition, took to Twitter calling for the country’s top court to uphold the constitution, “It is nothing short of high treason. Imran Khan has pushed the country into anarchy. Niazi & his cohort will not be allowed to go scot-free. There will be consequences for blatant & brazen violation of the Constitution.”
The Supreme Court panel consisting of five judges overseeing the hearing had asked the Opposition and Khan’s government for their concluding arguments by Wednesday. The apex institution has asked Khan to delineate the “foreign conspiracy” allegations as was asserted by Khan in an address to the nation where the incumbent Prime Minister also accused the United States of America of trying to oust him from power.
Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri, backed by Khan’s PTI, had dismissed the no-confidence vote led by the opposition, terming the motion as a violation of Article 5 of Pakistan’s constitution, which asks for loyalty and obedience to the constitution and law. Suri had approved the dissolution of the parliament after Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had reiterated Prime Minister Khan’s proclamations.
The allegations hurled toward the US hardly come as a surprise. During the former cricketer’s tenure, India’s bitter rivals have been developing closer relations with Russia and Khan was the first Pakistani Head of State to visit Moscow in over two decades.
US diplomat Donald Lu, replying to a query by Pakistani paper, Dawn, said, “There is absolutely no truth to that allegation.”
A survey by Geo News indicated that not many Pakistanis are buying into this theory. Rather than a US conspiracy, 64% feel that the Opposition’s call for a no-confidence motion is because of high inflation and the PTI government’s failure to control the rising prices.
If the Supreme Court rules in Khan’s favor, the National Assembly will be dissolved and new elections will be scheduled in 90 days. On the other hand, if the top bench’s decision doesn’t support Khan, a no-confidence vote will be a go as was previously scheduled. Both would mean that no Head of State in Pakistan has ever completed their 5-year term since the country’s inception 75-years ago.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had earlier claimed that the Army and Opposition were colluding to expel him from the hot seat. But, the Pakistani military, in a statement, refuted Khan vehemently asserting that it had nothing to do with the no-confidence motion. The relationship between the establishment, as the Prime Minister, refers to the army by, and the Prime Minister himself has been getting frostier.
As per several media reports, the Army has contradicted Khan’s comments alleging the supposed American conspiracy to remove Pakistan’s head, saying that the accusations had no evidence to back the claim.
As per says, Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, a research associate at SOAS University of London and a military expert, the Military’s response to the crisis at hand has been rather understated, “So from PML (N) to PPP, it’s not that they don’t have support in each political party. The only thing is that they don’t want them [the political parties] to have the joy that they have actually won a victory against the military.”
While the “establishment” has so far let Imran Khan off the ropes, Dr Siddiqa says this unusually nonchalant stance will ensure that the incumbent Prime Minister remains a political force even if any party in the Opposition is voted into power when or if new elections are held, “I am under no illusion that the next elections will not be kind of controlled by the military.”
Imran Khan had nominated former Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed to be the caretaker Prime Minister once the National Assembly was dissolved. As per sources, the Opposition has come back with its own name, Justice Maqbool Baqir, who has recently retired from the Supreme Court. While these names are up in the air, only the decision of the country’s highest judiciary will determine whether either will become caretaker Prime Minister or not.