ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top court is due to meet on Monday to consider a bid by Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a general election after his party blocked a no-confidence vote and he dissolved parliament to prevent an opposition attempt to oust him.
Former cricket star Khan lost his majority in parliament last week as his opponents built their support in advance of the vote of no-confidence that had been due on Sunday.
But the deputy speaker of parliament, a member of Khan’s party, threw out the no-confidence motion that Khan had widely been expected to lose, ruling it was part of a foreign conspiracy and unconstitutional.
The move throws the nuclear-armed nation into a full-blown constitutional crisis, with opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif calling the blocking of the vote “nothing short of high treason”.
“The nation is stunned,” the English-language Dawn newspaper Dawn said in an editorial.
“Even as political pundits and the media confidently predicted Mr Imran Khan’s defeat in the vote of no-confidence, he seemed unperturbed.
“No one could have guessed that his last ploy would involve having the democratic order burnt down.”
Khan also dissolved the cabinet and wants a general election within 90 days, though that decision officially rests with the president and the election commission, and depends on the outcome of the court hearing.
The Supreme Court is due meet at 1 pm (0800 GMT) to begin its deliberation.
The largely ceremonial head of state, President Arif Alvi, said in a statement that Khan would stay on as prime minister in an interim role until a caretaker prime minister was appointed under whom a general election would be held.
Alvi wrote to both Khan and Sharif, asking them to put forward names for a caretaker prime minister within three days, the president’s office said in a statement.
But whether elections will happen depends largely on the outcome of the legal proceedings.
The Supreme 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.
The court could also decide that it cannot intervene in parliamentary affairs.
Khan says he did not act unconstitutionally, calling the move to oust him a plot orchestrated by the United States – a claim Washington denies.