Pakistan’s highest court to convene as PM Khan clings to power | world news

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By Asif Shahzad and Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s highest court is due to meet on Monday to consider a bid by Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a general election after his party blocked a vote of no confidence and dissolved parliament to prevent a opposition attempt to oust him.

Former cricket star Khan lost his majority in parliament last week as his opponents shored up support ahead of a vote of no confidence due to take place on Sunday.

But the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, a member of Khan’s party, rejected the motion of no confidence which Khan was supposed to lose, ruling it was part of a foreign conspiracy and unconstitutional.

The move plunges the nuclear-armed nation, which the military has ruled for almost half of its history, into a full-fledged constitutional crisis, with opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif calling the blocking of the vote “nothing less than high treason”.

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“The nation is stunned,” English-language newspaper Dawn Dawn said in an editorial.

“Even though political pundits and the media were confidently predicting Mr Imran Khan’s defeat in the vote of no confidence, he seemed unfazed.

“No one could have guessed that his latest scheme would be to burn down the democratic order.”

Khan has also dissolved the cabinet and wants a general election within 90 days, although that decision is officially up to the president and the election commission and depends on the outcome of the hearing.

The Supreme Court is due to meet at 1:00 p.m. (08:00 GMT) to begin its deliberation.

The largely ceremonial head of state, President Arif Alvi, said in a statement that Khan would remain prime minister in an interim role until an interim prime minister is appointed under whose leadership a general election would take place.

Alvi wrote to both Khan and Sharif, asking them to come up with names for an interim prime minister within three days, the president’s office said in a statement.

But the holding of elections largely depends on the outcome of the legal proceedings.

The Supreme Court could order parliament to be reconstituted, call new elections or bar Khan from running again if he is found to have acted unconstitutionally.

The court could also decide that it cannot intervene in parliamentary business.

Khan says he did not act unconstitutionally, calling the decision to oust him a US-orchestrated conspiracy – a claim Washington denies.

Political analysts say the military viewed Khan’s conservative and nationalist agenda favorably when he won the 2018 election, but later grew cold on him following various feuds.

The army denies any involvement in civilian politics, but the generals are unlikely to sit idly by if they believe political chaos is hurting the country or their core interests are under threat.

(Reporting by Asif Shahzad and Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam in Islamabad and Syed Raza Hassan in Karachi; Writing by Alasdair Pal Editing by Robert Birsel)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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