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Pakistan’s top court adjourns hearing in parliament dissolution case

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows the premises of Pakistan’s Supreme Court.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has been adjourned for one day without ruling on the legality of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s actions in blocking an attempt by the opposition to remove him.

The court received a slew of petitions after the deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament on Sunday refused to allow a no-confidence motion brought by the joint opposition against the Khan administration. The deputy speaker declared the motion unconstitutional, saying it is part of a plot by what he called “foreign powers” to interfere in Pakistan’s democracy.

Simultaneously, President Arif Alvi dissolved the parliament on the prime minister’s advice.

Khan has also called for fresh elections within 90 days. But a final decision on the matter will come from the president and the election commission.

Pakistan’s opposition parties say the move by the prime minister and his ruling party to annul the no-confidence vote, and dissolving the assembly, was unconstitutional.

The opposition has challenged Khan’s decision in a legal case that began on Monday, with a five-member Supreme Court bench hearing arguments in a packed courtroom. The judges heard arguments related to the dissolution of parliament by Khan.

“The ruling was unlawful – why?” Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked opposition lawyers.

Farooq Naek, a lawyer representing petitioners, told the court it was not in the “power and ambit” of the deputy speaker to reject the no-confidence motion. “It was a constitutional irregularity coupled with 'mala fide',” he said, a legal term meaning ‘bad faith.’

The court failed to come to a verdict during the three-hour hearing and will return on Tuesday.

On Saturday, Khan accused the United States of being behind a parliament debate on the no-confidence motion, saying the move is an attempt at regime change backed by Washington. The Pakistani premier had earlier accused an unnamed foreign power of funding a “conspiracy” to topple his democratically-elected government.

Khan would have been the first prime minister of Pakistan to be removed through a vote of no-confidence. The cricketer-turned-politician stands accused by the opposition of mishandling the economy and foreign policy since 2018. His embattled government has been banking on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to release a 6-billion-dollar rescue package, but the move has been obstructed by Washington.

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