In a political setback to Imran Khan, Pakistan's premier will face a no-trust vote after the country's Supreme Court on Thursday restored the National Assembly and set aside Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri's ruling where he dismissed the no-confidence motion against the prime minister.
The top court also ruled that President Ari Alvi's move to dissolve the assembly was unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court directed Speaker Asad Qaiser to summon and hold an assembly in the present session on Saturday "no later than 10:30 am" and organize the no-confidence vote against Khan.
Opposition leaders hailed the top court's decision terming it a "victory for democracy and the constitution". Hours after the top court announced its verdict, Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted his decision to call a cabinet meeting and a parliamentary party meeting on Friday. Khan said he would address the nation later in the evening. "My message to our nation is I have always & will continue to fight for Pak till the last ball," Khan's tweet read.
On April 3 Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, who is with Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, dismissed the no-confidence motion against cricketer-turned-politician claiming the move unmaintainable since it was linked to a "foreign conspiracy" designed to topple the government. Minutes later, Alvi dissolved the National Assembly at Khan's instance, since the prime minister had effectively lost the majority.
Pakistan's Opposition claimed it had 172 votes in the 340-seat House to remove Khan after several PTI leaders and a key coalition partner defected.
President, Dy Speaker's move unconstitutional: Pak SC
In its short order released late evening on Thursday, Pakistan's top court set aside Suri's decision on the grounds that it was "contrary to the Constitution and the law and of no legal effect…" and also ruled that President Ari Alvi's move to dissolve the parliament was unconstitutional.
Thus, Khan and his cabinet stood restored, the five-judge bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial said.
The Constitution Bench observed that Khan could not have advised Alvi to dissolve the parliament since the provisions of the constitution bars a prime minister from giving advise on the dissolution of the assembly if he is facing a no-confidence vote.
The top court's order came after it took suo motu cognizance of political turmoil in the country. On Thursday, which was the fourth and final day of the hearing, the five-judge bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial observed that the court has to keep the national interest in mind.
The president's lawyer Ali Zafar had argued if the parliament fell, the matter went to the people. Every article must be considered for the protection of the constitution, Barrister Zafar said to which the bench opined what would happen when the abuse is from the whole House instead of one member?
What happens next?
According to Supreme Court directions, Speaker Asad Qaiser must call the assembly and go through the no-confidence motion moved by the Opposition.
Furthermore, the Speaker cannot discontinue or end the session unless:
a. The Resolution does not pass the requisite majority and the no-confidence resolution is defeated; or,
b. If the Resolution is passed with the requisite majority, Imran Khan is ousted as the Prime Minister; and a new Prime Minister is elected.
"If the Resolution is passed by the requisite majority (i.e., the no-confidence resolution is successful) then the Assembly shall forthwith, and in its present Session, proceed to elect a Prime Minister," the court order read.
The top court warned the Federal Government from hindering, obstructing, or interfering with, any members of the National Assembly who wish to attend the session summoned as above, and to participate in, and cast their votes, on the no-confidence resolution on Saturday.
The top court stated that the current order would not impact the proceedings under Article 63 of the Constitution which refers to the anti-defection laws.