3rd April 2022
By Rehan Piracha
(With additional inputs from Munizae Jahangir, Ahmed Saeed and Hamid Riaz from Islamabad)
President Arif Alvi on Sunday announced the dissolution of the National Assembly after Deputy Speaker of National Assembly Qasim Suri dismissed a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan, plunging the country into a constitutional crisis.
In a related development, voting for the election of the new chief minister could not be held in Punjab Assembly amid rowdy scenes between the opposition and government lawmakers. The deputy speaker adjourned the session for the election of a new leader house till April 6.
Terming both actions as unconstitutional, the opposition announced that its lawyers would immediately approach the Supreme Court to avert a constitutional crisis and hold the government accountable for acting in violation of the Constitution.
National Assembly was to hold voting on the no-trust proceedings in Sunday’s session. In a surprise move, the joint opposition parties earlier filed a no-confidence motion against Speaker Asad Qaiser. Chairing the session, Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri dismissed the no-confidence proceedings, terming it against Article 5 of the Constitution relating to the obedience of the State and obedience to the Constitution and law.
Suri began proceedings by taking questions on the agenda, asking Federal Information and Law Minister Fawad Chaudhary to take the floor.
Amid uproar from the opposition benches, the information minister told the lower house that loyalty to the state was the basic duty of every citizen under Article 5(1). He renewed the prime minister’s claims that a foreign conspiracy was behind the move to oust the Pakistan Tehrik Insaf government.
“On March 7, our official ambassador was invited to a meeting attended by the representatives of other countries. The meeting was told that a motion against PM Imran was being presented,” Chaudhary said, adding that the meeting occurred a day before the opposition formally filed the no-confidence motion.
“We were told that relations with Pakistan were dependent on the success of the no-confidence motion. We were told that if the motion fails, then Pakistan’s path would be very difficult. This is an operation for a regime change by a foreign government,” the information minister claimed.
The information minister called on the deputy speaker to decide the constitutionality of the no-confidence proceedings. Suri said the no-trust motion was presented on March 8 and should be according to the law and the Constitution. “No foreign power shall be allowed to topple an elected government through a conspiracy,” the deputy speaker said, calling the points raised by the minister as “valid”.
The deputy speaker dismissed the motion, ruling that it was “contradictory” to the law, the Constitution and the rules. The session was later prorogued till March 25.
Reacting to the abrupt ruling, the opposition staged a sit-in inside the Parliament. “Prime Minister Imran Khan violated the Constitution because he knew he had lost the majority,” Marriyum Aurangzeb, leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, told Voicepk.net. The PML-N legislator said the consequences of the premier’s actions would be answered by Article 6 relating to high treason.
Makhdoom Zain Hussain Qureshi, PTI member of the National Assembly, defended the dismissal of no-confidence proceedings against the prime minister under Article 5. He said the deputy speaker felt that the no-trust vote was initiated through foreign support. “The no-confidence motion is dismissed, therefore Imran Khan is still the prime minister,” Qureshi told Voicepk.net
“As prime minister, he is empowered to forward a summary for dissolution of National Assembly to the President,” he added. Qureshi said the opposition could take the matter to the courts.
Responding to PTI’s claims that the opposition feared fresh polls, senior PPP leader Khurshid Shah said the opposition was ready to contest elections. He said the opposition wanted to amend and reform controversial laws before holding of new elections. He clarified that the federal government could not dissolve provincial assemblies. “Only the Sindh chief minister has the authority to dissolve the provincial assembly,” he told Voicepk.net.
Faisal Karim Kundi, PPP central secretary of information and also a former deputy speaker, said the Supreme Court had historically struck down attempts to dissolve Parliament. “We are approaching the Supreme Court over the illegal dissolution of the National Assembly,” he told Voicepk.net. “The apex court had struck down the ruling of former speaker Fehmida Mirza in former PM Yousaf Raza Gillani’s case as well as ordered restoration of former PM Nawaz Sharif’s government in the 80s,” he said.
Asked whether the opposition was prepared for the ‘surprise’ in the National Assembly, Kundi said anything could be expected from a frustrated person like Imran Khan.
Speaking to reporters inside Parliament, Shehbaz Sharif, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, said the deputy speaker and the prime minister were guilty of committing high treason under Article 6 of the Constitution.
“Imran Khan has pushed the country into anarchy. Niazi and his cohort will not be allowed to go scot-free. There will be consequences for [the] blatant and brazen violation of the Constitution. Hope the Supreme Court will play its role to uphold the Constitution,” Sharif said in his tweet.
PPP Chairman Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari said that the government had violated the Constitution by not allowing voting to take place on the no-trust move.
“The united opposition is not leaving Parliament. Our lawyers are on their way to Supreme Court. We call on ALL institutions to protect, uphold, defend and implement the Constitution of Pakistan,” the PPP chairman said in his video message posted on his Twitter account.
PPP’s Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar termed the government’s move a “blatant violation” of the Constitution and the rules.”The Supreme Court cannot and should not sit by as a mere spectator. The chief justice should immediately take to the bench and save the country from a constitutional crisis!”
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz said that no one could be allowed to “distort” the Constitution for the sake of saving their seat. “If this crazy fanatic is not punished for this crime, then the law of the jungle will prevail in the country after today!”
PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal said PM Imran had proven to the world that he does not possess even an “iota” of decency, grace and honour. “Having lost the majority in National Assembly, [he] chooses to bulldoze constitution. He will be defeated with unprecedented humiliation in history,” he said.
Opposition holds informal session, polls 195 votes in favour of no-trust motion
The opposition members held an informal session to complete proceedings of the no-trust motion. Former speaker Ayaz Sadiq occupied the speaker’s seat in the lower house and chaired the session. A total of 195 opposition members voted in favour of the no-confidence motion in absence of treasury members and ministers.
Prime Minister addresses nation
Minutes after the deputy speaker dismissed the no-trust motion, Prime Minister Imran Khan appeared on state television to address the nation over developments in the National Assembly.
In his address, Prime Minister Imran congratulated the nation over the dismissal of the no-trust motion. He claimed the deputy speaker had rejected the attempt of changing the regime through a foreign conspiracy.
The PM said he had written to the president with advice to dissolve the assemblies, adding that the democrats should go to the public and elections should be held so the people could decide who they wanted in power. “Prepare for elections. No corrupt forces will decide what the future of the country will be. When the assemblies will be dissolved, the procedure for the next elections and the caretaker government will begin,” Khan said in his address.
President dissolves National Assembly on PM’s advice
Shortly after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s televised address to the nation, President Dr Arif Alvi dissolved the National Assembly on the Prime Minister’s advice under Article 58 of the Constitution.
“The president of Pakistan, Dr Arif Alvi, has approved the advice of the prime minister of Pakistan to dissolve the National Assembly under the Article 58 (1) read with Article 48(1) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” according to a statement issued by the President’s Secretariat.
Supreme Court restrains state institutions, political parties from exploiting situation
According to a statement issued by the Supreme Court, Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial took notice of the situation arising out of the no-trust motion’s dismissal in the National Assembly and subsequent dissolution of the lower house by the President.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial took suo motu notice of the political situation after Deputy Speaker National Assembly Qasim Suri rejected the opposition’s no-confidence motion without a vote.
A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, heard the case. The bench comprises Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.
During the hearing, the Supreme Court restrained state functionaries from taking any unconstitutional action.
The apex court directed the bar and political parties to become parties to the suo motu notice. The court said that the judges were aware of the situation therefore further hearing would be heldon Monday, April 4.
The Chief Justice said political parties should remain peaceful and no extra-constitutional action should be taken.
The court issued notices to the defense secretary on the steps taken to maintain law and order in the country. The Chief Justice said the court did not want to prolong the hearing as it was the holy month of Ramazan.
The Chief Justice said that no government body would act unconstitutionally, cautioning that no political parties and government bodies should exploit the situation to their favour. Chief Justice Bandial directed that the law and order situation should be maintained saying it to be the order of the court for today.
The Supreme Court directed the Interior Secretary and the Defence Secretary to inform the court about the law and order situation in the country. The Chief Justice directed to fix the petition of the PPP and said that the Supreme Court would review the steps taken by the Deputy Speaker relating to the no-trust motion.
Military distances itself from the political process
Following the notification of the dissolution of the National Assembly on the advice of the Prime Minister, the military distanced itself from the ongoing constitutional crisis.
Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said the army was not involved in politics. “Army has nothing to do with the political process,” he told Reuters news agency in response to a question about the institution’s involvement in the events.