- Pakistan’s top court hopes to wrap up on Thursday a hearing on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s obstruction of an opposition bid to remove him, which his critics say was unconstitutional.
- Khan lost his parliamentary majority last week and was on the verge of being forced from office by a no-confidence motion tabled by the opposition on Sunday.
- But the deputy speaker of parliament threw out the motion, ruling it was unconstitutional and part of a foreign conspiracy. Khan then dissolved parliament.
- The standoff has thrown the country of 220 million people, ruled by the military for extended periods since independence in 1947, into a full-blown constitutional crisis.
Here are the latest updates:
Hearing adjourned, verdict expected Thursday evening
Pakistani media reports say the Supreme Court hearing has been adjourned and a verdict is expected to be delivered at 7:30pm (1430 GMT) on Thursday.
The top court is hearing multiple petitions challenging the constitutional validity of parliament’s deputy speaker throwing away the no-confidence motion moved by the opposition on April 3.
Four possible outcomes of top court’s verdict
Here are four possible outcomes of the Supreme Court’s ruling expected later on Thursday:
- The court could order parliament to be reconstituted and motion to be tabled again.
- It could call for fresh elections that Imran Khan’s party has been pushing for.
- The court may bar Khan from power if he is found to have violated the constitution.
- It could also decide that it cannot intervene in parliamentary affairs.
Main opposition leader addresses top court bench
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shehbaz Sharif rises up to address the five-judge bench at the Supreme Court.
“I am not a lawyer but a common man,” he said, according to Geo TV. “If deputy speaker’s ruling is erroneous, then parliament should be restored.”
Earlier, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said it was clear the April 3 ruling of parliament’s deputy speaker, which dismissed the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan, was erroneous.
“The real question at hand is what happens next,” the judge said.
Security beefed up at Supreme Court: TV report
Security has been tightened at the Supreme Court in anticipation of the crucial verdict.
The local Geo TV aired visuals of riot police taking their positions around the court building. Major roads leading to the court have been blocked.
The development came after Chief Justice Bandial said the court may announce its verdict on Thursday.
“God willing we are concluding today,” he said.
‘Where is the deputy speaker’s signature?’
Supreme Court judge, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, asks why the deputy speaker’s ruling, which dismissed the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan, was not signed by him, Dawn news website reports.
The ruling, which threw out the opposition’s motion, was read out by Qasim Suri as National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser was absent. Justice Mandokhel said the ruling was announced by the deputy speaker but carried the signature of the speaker.
“Where is the deputy speaker’s signature?” Justice Mandokhel asked.
The judge also questioned about the absence of the foreign minister from the House.
“Shouldn’t the foreign minister been present?” he asked, prompting the government lawyer to admit the minister should have been present.
Government lawyer on top court’s jurisdiction
Attorney General Khalid Jawad Khan tells the Supreme Court that parliamentary proceedings were not exempt from judicial review, but the limits were to be defined by the court.
Lawyer Naeem Bukhari, who is representing parliament’s speaker and deputy speaker, argued that the top court had refrained from interfering in parliamentary proceedings in the past.
He asked whether the court would have taken notice of the matter if the speaker had dismissed former Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry’s point of order, which asked for a ruling on an alleged foreign conspiracy that Imran Khan says was linked with the opposition’s no-confidence motion.
Pakistani rupee falls to an all-time low
Amid the constitutional crisis, the Pakistani rupee has fallen to an all-time low of 188 rupees against the US dollar in the inter-bank market.
Analysts believe that political uncertainty following the dissolution of parliament was pushing the rupee to slide.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Shehbaz Sharif accused Imran Khan of “running away after leaving a legacy of broken economy”.
“Time to right all wrongs is NOW,” Sharif tweeted.
As dollar continues to soar, a massive economic meltdown is staring the country in the face. No wonder Niazi is running away after leaving a legacy of broken economy, constitutional crisis & political instability. Pakistan did not deserve it.. Time to right all the wrongs is NOW!
— Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) April 7, 2022
Khan ‘sabotaged constitution on April 3’: Sharif
PML-N leader and main opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif hopes the court will announce its verdict at the earliest.
Sharif said the political uncertainty has had a huge impact on the country’s economy, accusing Khan of its “poor handling”.
Value of Dollar in interbank market has touched Rs188. Is SBP a partner in crime and deliberately closing its eyes to massive manipulation going on right now?Does SBP want rupee to touch Rs190 to a dollar before weekend? SBP must clarify it’s position
— Shahbaz Rana (@81ShahbazRana) April 7, 2022
“Imran Niazi is an absolutely fraud,” Sharif said, adding that Khan “sabotaged the constitution on April 3”.
“If you want to save Pakistan, then you have to save the constitution and ensure free and fair elections,” he said. “I am sure the judges will protect the constitution.”
Calling opposition ‘traitors’ was a joke: ANP leader
Awami National Party (ANP) leader Mian Iftikhar says declaring the opposition leaders fighting for the supremacy of the constitution as “traitors” was a joke.
“On the other hand, those who violated the constitution were still ruling the country,” he told reporters outside the Supreme Court.
“We expect a decision that would strengthen the constitution and parliament.”
Academic Ayesha Jalal on what happens next in Pakistan
“You never know with Pakistan’s politics – anything is possible. After all, it is very rare for governments in Pakistan to complete a full term. But no matter what the Supreme Court decides about the no-confidence vote, it does look set that Pakistan will be heading to an election in the next 90 days.
“It will be a bitter, bitter election – and held in the middle of Pakistan’s hot summer. Uncertainty, politicking and potential unrest could dominate the next few months.
“The danger is that Khan will not accept an election loss and take his fight to supporters in the streets. If a political crisis becomes a law-and-order issue, the army – never far away from Pakistani politics, and seemingly losing patience with Khan – might decide enough is enough and move in.
“That said, there is little appetite among the population for a military dictatorship.”
‘Taken oath to protect constitution’: Ex-foreign minister
Former Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi denies his party has taken any unconstitutional steps.
“We have taken oath to protect the constitution,” he told reporters outside the Supreme Court.
He said parliament’s deputy speaker did not disallow the no-confidence motion but pointed towards “facts of political interference that tantamount to an effort for regime change”.
“The allegations can be probed,” he said. “In my opinion, the only solution to the current political crisis is fresh election.”
Out of curiosity- is there any qualified legal professional who publicly supports the deputy speaker’s actions as constitutional?
— Hassan Kamal Wattoo (@hkwattoo1) April 6, 2022
PM Khan to huddle with party leaders
Khan will chair a meeting of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party at his residence in the capital Islamabad at approximately 1pm (08:00 GMT), media reports said.
The PTI’s top leadership is meeting to devise their strategy in anticipation of a verdict by the Supreme Court.
Senator Faisal Javed says an election will happen in 3 months – does he already know in advance what the ruling will be?
— omar r quraishi (@omar_quraishi) April 7, 2022
Far-right party urges court to undo Khan’s moves
Pakistan’s far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which rose to prominence in 2017 for its support of anti-blasphemy laws, has urged the Supreme Court to undo the decisions of Khan’s government.
In a statement issued late Wednesday, the TLP said it would not allow Khan’s government to make changes to the country’s constitution.
“If the deputy speaker’s ruling is condoned, then we fear Islamic provisions of the constitution would be violated and a non-Muslim could be appointed president or prime minister through a simple ruling,” says the statement, released in Urdu.
‘Pakistan and the constitution demand justice’
The leaders of opposition Pakistan’s Peoples Party (PPP) say they expect the top court to do justice and restore the National Assembly.
“It’s the fifth day that constitution is suspended in our country,” former deputy speaker Faisal Karim Kundi told reporters outside the Supreme Court.
“Pakistan and the constitution demand justice,” said PPP leader and Senator Sherry Rehman, who demanded that the members of Khan’s cabinet be put on the Exit Control List (ECL) so they are not able to leave the country and face accountability.
Supreme Court hearing enters fourth day
The top court is due to reconvene for a fourth day on Thursday at 9:30am (04:30 GMT).
The opposition has challenged the decision to block the no-confidence vote in the Supreme Court, which began deliberating the case on Monday.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said: “Let’s start early from tomorrow to conclude the case,” at the end of a session on Wednesday in which defense lawyers offered a justification for Khan’s actions.