What next for Pakistan as the move to oust Imran Khan blocked?

Legal experts have called the dissolution of the National Assembly unconstitutional, as the Opposition said they would challenge the move in Pakistan’s Supreme Court. An early election is a possibility

Pakistan president Arif Alvi dissolved the National Assembly (NA) on Sunday on the advice of Prime Minister Imran Khan. At the start of the session, ahead of the no-confidence vote in the lower house, Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry read out Article 5 of the Constitution and accused the Opposition of disloyalty to the state.

Dismissing the opposition’s no-confidence motion against Khan, the deputy speaker of the NA, Qasim Suri, said it violated Article 5 of Pakistan’s Constitution.

Chaudhry said that this was the “surprise” move that the government was waiting to deliver.

The Opposition said it would challenge the order in the country’s Supreme Court (SC), as the cricketer-turned-politician called for fresh polls. But what is Article 5 and can it shield Khan? What do experts have to say? We take a look.

Article 5 of the Pakistan Constitution

Article 5, under the heading, “Loyalty to State and obedience to Constitution and law” has two of the following clauses:
(1) Loyalty to the State is the basic duty of every citizen.
(2) Obedience to the Constitution and law is the 10[inviolable] 10 obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan.

How has Khan bought time using Article 5?

The Pakistan prime minister has been saying that the no-trust motion is part of a “foreign-funded conspiracy” hatched against his government. Fawad Chaudhary used Clause 1 of Article 5 to reiterate the allegation.

“On March 7, our official ambassador was invited to a meeting attended by the representatives of other countries. The meeting was informed that a motion against PM Imran was being presented,” he said, according to Dawn.

“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,” he added.

After Chaudhry spoke, Suri said that the points that the minister had raised are “valid”. “No foreign power shall be allowed to topple an elected government through a conspiracy,” the deputy speaker said.

Can Khan dissolve the Assembly?

According to Article 58 of the Constitution, the prime minister cannot dissolve the National Assembly unless a no-confidence motion, if filed against the chief executive, has been decided, reports Dawn.

Hence Khan turned to President Dr Arif Alvi. “The president of Pakistan, Dr Arif Alvi, has approved the advice of the prime minister of Pakistan to dissolve the National Assembly under 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 on Sunday.

How did the Opposition react?

The move caught the Opposition unawares. After the deputy speaker’s announcement, lawmakers started protesting and moving towards the well of the chamber.

Stunned opposition leaders said that they would challenge the move before the SC, calling it “unprecedented” and a “blatant violation” of the Constitution.

“What Imran Khan has done is against the laws. We’re approaching our lawyers. The speaker has also done undemocratic work. Imran Khan has exposed himself through this move. We will be present inside the National Assembly until this decision is reversed,” said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, head of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party.

Asking the top court to rise to the challenge, he tweeted, “We cannot under any circumstances compromise on the constitution.”

Is the move legal?

Experts have slammed the dissolution, which has triggered a constitutional crisis in Pakistan.

“I think the act of the speaker is clearly unconstitutional. His job is to count the votes, not to decide whether any of the opposition members is some part of a foreign conspiracy. He cannot just throw out a motion of no-confidence,” Pakistan SC lawyer and constitutional expert Salahuddin Ahmed told Al Jazeera.

Another Pakistani lawyer Reema Omer tweeted that there are no “ifs and buts” and the “speaker’s ruling is blatantly unconstitutional”.

Is Imran Khan still PM?

Imran Khan will continue as the prime minister of Pakistan despite being de-notified as the premier until the appointment of a caretaker prime minister, the Pakistan president’s secretariat said in a press release issued after Sunday midnight.

“Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi, shall continue as Prime Minister till the appointment of caretaker Prime Minister under Article 224 A (4) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”

Under Article 224, he can reportedly continue as the PM for 15 days, Geo News reported.

What next for Pakistan?

On Sunday, the Pakistan top court issued a notice to all those who filed petitions against the dissolving of the Parliament. The petitions have been filed by the Supreme Court Bar Association, Bar Council, secretary defence, secretary interior, advocate general, and all political parties that moved SC. A notice has also been issued to Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan, reports News18.com.

The Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing for Monday.

Political analyst Zaigham Khan told Al Jazeera that there were two possibilities. “Firstly, the Supreme Court of Pakistan will order the speaker to go ahead with the no-confidence motion. In that case, the PM’s advice for dissolving the Assembly will become invalid.”

Another scenario is parallel to the case of former Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo who was ousted by General Zia-ul-Haq in 1988. “Junejo went to the Supreme Court, which agreed with him that his government was dissolved unconstitutionally. But court said that since elections were announced, it was best if Pakistan moved ahead with the elections to get a new mandate,” he said.

Will there be elections in Pakistan?

“Prepare for elections,” Imran Khan said in a televised speech, confirming that he had ordered the dissolution. “No corrupt forces will decide what the future of the country will be.”

According to News18.com, the SC is in support of early elections and there is a possibility that all parties will be called for a compromise.

With inputs from agencies

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