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The brewing constitutional crisis: way forward

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Ansar M Bhatti

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Speaker of National Assembly Qasim Suri, who happened to be the deputy speaker by virtue of a stay order of the court, prima facie acted ‘unlawfully’ by allowing the motion tabled by the former law minister Fawad Chaudhry and consequently passing a controversial ruling in which he outright rejected the lawful no-trust motion of the Opposition parties. This was the surprise Prime Minister Imran Khan had hinted at during his pre-vote meeting with the party leaders. The legal fraternity especially has expressed dismay over what it called the ‘unconstitutional’ step of the deputy speaker. There is also no dearth of experts who believe the deputy speaker had every right to pass this ruling, saying the constitution empowered him to do so. They are of the view that parliamentary proceedings and ruling given by the speaker cannot be challenged in any court of law.

Well said, but only those rulings cannot be challenged that are given as per the law. If the speaker oversteps his mandate and ignores law while passing a ruling, he ostensibly is liable to be proceeded against. Secondly, under Rule 28 of the National Assembly rules only the Speaker is authorized to pass any ruling. That is the point discussed in length by the apex court during its April 4 hearing. And even the speaker could not do so because a no-trust motion was already submitted against him. This particular aspect will now be mulled in the apex court.

While the PTI leaders continue to celebrate their victory after creating a constitutional crisis in the country, the opposition parties have rejected the President of Pakistan’s invitation to be part of the process of picking up the caretaker set up. During their news conference on April 4, they made it clear that they would not become part of any such exercise since they strongly believe that the prime minister and the president acted ‘illegally’.

It is quite strange why the prime minister and his cohorts are celebrating the dissolution of assembly. It should have been in fact a matter of concern for them that another elected government has not been allowed to complete its term of five years. If Imran Khan’s contention that the international conspiracy was hatched to get him removed is considered genuine, then the conspiracy undoubtedly stands successful. If this case, full marks have to be given to the hatchers of this conspiracy that got him (Imran) out of power with such an ease. So much so, Imran Khan and his cronies are made to market this ouster as their great success. What a move by the planners!!

It is now evident that the PTI government and the Establishment were poles apart particularly on international issues such as Ukraine, relations with the US and China. Imran Khan during his speech delivered on the first day of the security dialogue persistently defended his visit to Russia. Similarly, he once again took the United States to the task. The very next day Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa called the Russian action in Ukraine an invasion and vowed to have stronger friendly relations with the super power. The Imran Khan government never said a single word about the Russian invasion despite the fact that various internal factors including the general public; think-tank, intelligentsia, wanted him to come up with a clear stand on the issue. To have friendly relations with the neighboring countries indeed is a solemn endeavour, which must be supported and welcomed; nevertheless such efforts need not be made in isolation. 

If the court upholds dissolution of the national assembly as valid, then elections will have to be held within 90 days. The PTI has already started the election campaign. Imran Khan again appeared on the national hook-up on Monday and appealed to the people to join him in a rally at the D Chowk against what he called the corrupt parties of the country. According to law, he has ceased to exist as the prime minister and his role now is only of a caretaker who will hand over power to the interim prime minister and then depart. But he is still acting as the full fledge prime minister utilizing all govt resources, which, as a temporary PM he perhaps cannot.

The Supreme Court is likely to give a short order today or tomorrow. The opposition lawyers were asking for a verdict even yesterday but the court said it has to hear all before reaching a conclusion.

Summing up, the act of the dissolution of the national assembly is based on the so-called conspiracy hatched by the US and as a result the entire government had to go home. But intriguingly no potential protest was lodged with America. A soft-worded demarche was handed over to the US diplomat and that is it. If it were a conspiracy of such a gigantic scale, then the first thing, which Pakistan would have done, was to declare the US envoy as persona non grata. In fact, someone asked this question to the prime minister but he had no answer.






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