Pakistan chief justice questions govt move even as president seeks poll dates

(Update 1: updates with chief justice’s remarks, changes lede, headline)

Islamabad, Apr 6 (EFE).- Pakistan’s Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial on Wednesday flagged the lack of precedents and possible negative consequences of the government blocking a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan in the parliament, as hearings continued into the legality of the step, even as the president sought to fix dates for snap elections.

“Apparently the no-confidence motion was going to succeed and on the day of the voting the ruling came in. Whatever happened is unprecedented and if that is allowed it can have negative consequences,” Bandial said in the Supreme Court, although again withholding a verdict in the matter.

The judge postponed the hearing to Thursday 9.30 am.

The Supreme Court has to decide on the legality of the parliament on Sunday blocking the motion against Khan’s government that could have removed him from power.

The court proceedings are held by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court that took a suo-moto notice of the situation described by analysts as a “big constitutional crisis” in the country.

The deputy speaker had blocked the motion by citing an article of the constitution which states that loyalty to the State is the basic duty of every Pakistani citizen, alleging that some of the lawmakers do not fulfill this criteria.

“On what basis did the speaker issue the ruling? As the ruling consisted of accusations not findings. (…) Can the speaker announce such a ruling without presenting the facts before?” Bandial mused, adding that “this is the constitutional point on which the court has to make a decision. Whether the speaker could issue a ruling that was not on the agenda on that day.”

Meanwhile, President Arif Alvi Wednesday asked the country’s poll panel to set dates to conduct fresh general elections .

The presidential office tweeted that Alvi sent a letter to the Election Commission asking the poll body to suggest dates for general elections that should be held “within 90 days of the dissolution of the National Assembly.”

Alvi had dissolved the government on the prime minister’s advice, even though it is a privilege Khan cannot exercise when the no-confidence motion is in the house.

The prime minister also advised the president to order fresh elections, fueling anger and triggering a political upheaval in a country ruled by the military for the better part of its history since independence in 1947

If the parliament’s act stands intact by the court, an interim government has to be formed within 15 days to hold general elections within 90 days.

If the court declares the parliament’s proceedings null and void, Khan will face a no-confidence motion.

The opposition will stake the claim to form the government if he fails to show the majority.

Khan, whose five-year term was due to end next year, has claimed that the no-confidence motion was part of a conspiracy by a foreign government due to his visit to Russia on the day of the Ukraine invasion.

The cricketer-turned-politician indicated, at least on two occasions, that the country behind the efforts to oust him was the United States. Washington has denied the allegations.

Khan holds the office as an interim prime minister until a caretaker premier is appointed to hold elections. EFE


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