Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician and head of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan looks on as he attends an election campaign rally in Islamabad on June 30, 2018. – Pakistan will hold a general election on July 25 pitting the Pakistani Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) against its main rival, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, led by Khan. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI / AFP) (Photo credit should read AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)
PAKISTAN’S Supreme Court ruled on Thursday (7) that the National Assembly had been illegally dissolved, and ordered parliament to reconvene to hold a no-confidence vote that will likely see prime minister Imran Khan booted from office.
Khan asked the president to dissolve the assembly after the deputy speaker refused to allow a no-confidence vote against him on Sunday (3), but the Supreme Court said the action was illegal.
“All actions taken are of no legal effect and quashed,” the court ruling said.
“The national assembly continues to remain in session.”
The decision was met with jubilation by some in the capital, with cars loaded with opposition supporters racing through the streets and sounding their horns.
Khan claimed the opposition had colluded with the United States for “regime change” when the deputy speaker – a loyalist – refused to allow the no-confidence motion.
Simultaneously, Khan asked the presidency – a largely ceremonial office also held by a loyalist – to dissolve the assembly, meaning an election must be held within 90 days.
President Arif Alvi had already told the feuding factions to nominate candidates for interim prime minister and asked the country’s election commission to fix a date for a new national ballot.
The opposition had refused to cooperate.
There had been high hopes for Khan when he was elected in 2018 on a promise of sweeping away decades of entrenched corruption and cronyism, but he struggled to maintain support with soaring inflation, a feeble rupee and crippling debt.
On Thursday (7) the rupee was trading at a historic low of 190 to the dollar, and the central bank raised the key interest rate by 250 basis points to 12.25 per cent – the biggest hike in over a quarter of a century.
Pakistan has been wracked by political crises for much of its 75-year existence, and no prime minister has ever seen out a full term.
Khan has blown anti-US sentiment into the political atmosphere by saying the opposition had colluded with Washington.
The cricketer-turned-politician says Western powers wanted him removed because he will not stand with them against Russia and China, and the issue is sure to ignite any forthcoming election.
The Supreme Court is ostensibly independent, but rights activists say previous benches have been used by civilian and military administrations to do their bidding throughout Pakistan’s history.
Publicly the military appears to be keeping out of the current fray, but there have been four coups since independence in 1947 and the country has spent more than three decades under army rule.