Islamabad: Pakistan’s beleaguered Prime Minister Imran Khan bowled a yorker at his rivals on Sunday by getting the presidential nod for the dissolution of Parliament, a move dubbed as “unconstitutional” by the Opposition parties which approached the apex court to legally challenge the decision which has pushed the coup-prone country into further political and constitutional crisis.
Khan was widely expected to lose the no-confidence motion moved by an alliance of Opposition politicians in the National Assembly — including more than a dozen defectors from his own political party.
But in a surprise reprieve for the 69-year-old cricketer-turned-politician, the no-trust vote was dismissed as “unconstitutional” by Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, leading to vociferous protests by the Opposition.
Khan, who had effectively lost majority in the 342-member National Assembly, made a brief address to the nation in which the prime minister said he has recommended dissolution of the House and fresh elections.
Khan congratulated the nation for the no-trust motion being dismissed, saying the deputy speaker had “rejected the attempt of changing the regime [and] the foreign conspiracy”.
“The nation should prepare for the new elections,” he said, adding that the no-confidence was actually a “foreign agenda”.
Khan said he has advised President Alvi to dissolve the assembly.
“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.
Later, President Arif Alvi’s office said he has dissolved the National Assembly according to the advice of the prime minister.
No Pakistani prime minister has ever completed a full five-year term in office.
Earlier, Deputy Speaker Suri dismissed the no-confidence motion moved by the Opposition against Prime Minister Khan, terming it against the Constitution and rules of Pakistan.
“The no-confidence should be according to the Constitution of and rules of the country. Since it is not as pointed out by the Law Minister, so I reject the no-confidence motion,” Suri ruled, amid vociferous protest by Opposition lawmakers.
Suri chaired the crucial session after Opposition parties filed a no-confidence motion against Speaker Asad Qaiser.
The stunned Opposition termed the entire process to reject the no-confidence motion against the prime minister and dissolution of assembly against the Constitution and its lawmakers refused to leave the premises of the parliament house which was protected by security personnel.
“We are going to challenge the ruling by the deputy speaker and advice by the prime minister to dissolve parliament in the Supreme Court, said Shehbaz Sharif, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament.
“What Imran Khan has done is against the laws. We’re approaching our lawyers. The speaker has also done an undemocratic work. Imran Khan has exposed himself through this move. We will be present inside the National Assembly until this decision is reversed. He is fleeing against the no-trust motion seeing defeat,” Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said.
“Our lawyers are on their way to Supreme Court. We call on ALL institutions to protect, uphold, defend & implement the constitution of Pakistan,” he later tweeted.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Marriyum Aurangzeb said: “Imran Khan is a traitor (gaddar). He has taken an unconstitutional step and we are now protesting in National Assembly and will not go anywhere until this decision is cancelled”.
Pakistan’s powerful army said it has “absolutely nothing” to do with the prevailing political situation in the country.
Military spokesman Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar made the remarks while speaking to a private TV channel in the wake of rejection of a no-confidence motion and subsequent dissolution of the National Assembly by the President.
“The army has absolutely nothing to do with what happened in the National Assembly today,” Iftikhar said.
The powerful Pakistan Army, which has ruled the coup-prone country for more than half of its 73 plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy.
Pakistan Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa has at least twice met Prime Minister Khan last week.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial has taken notice of the latest political situation, a court official said on Sunday.
Chief Justice Bandial arrived at the apex court, which was especially opened on a Sunday in light of the day’s unusual turn of events.
The top judge has taken suo motu notice of the current situation in the country, the spokesperson of the apex court said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Khan on Sunday sacked Punjab province’s Governor Chaudhry Sarwar while the election of the new provincial chief minister has been deferred.
Following in the footsteps of the National Assembly, Punjab Assembly’s Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari, citing the international conspiracy to topple the Imran Khan government, refused to conduct election of the chief minister and deferred the session until April 6.
Later, the Speaker’s office said that since there was ruckus in the House, it deferred the proceedings to conduct the election of the chief minister.