Top Pakistan court hears arguments in major political crisis

Apr 4, 2022, 2:29 AM | Updated: 1:31 pm

Pakistan's opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif, center, with his supporters leaves the Supreme Court a...

Pakistan's opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif, center, with his supporters leaves the Supreme Court after petitions hearing to dissolve parliament by country's Prime Minister, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Monday, April 4, 2022. Pakistan's top court began hearing arguments Monday on whether Prime Minister Imran Khan and his allies had the legal right to dissolve parliament and set the stage for early elections. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

(AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s top court began hearing arguments Monday on whether Prime Minister Imran Khan and his allies had the legal right to dissolve parliament and set the stage for early elections.

The opposition is challenging the latest moves by Khan, a former cricket start turned conservative Islamist leader who came to power in 2018, contending they are a ploy by Khan to stay in power.

The Supreme Court started hearing arguments on Monday both from Khan’s legal team and his allies, and also the opposition, but then adjourned the session until noon Tuesday.

There was no immediate explanation for the adjournment and it was also unclear when a ruling would come. Muslim-majority Pakistan is observing the holy month of Ramadan, when the faithful fast from dawn to dusk

On Sunday, Khan’s ally and Pakistan’s deputy parliament speaker, Qasim Suri, dissolved the assembly to sidestep a no-confidence vote that Khan appeared certain to lose. The opposition claims the deputy speaker had no constitutional authority to throw out the no-confidence vote.

The developments marked the latest in an escalating dispute between Khan and the opposition, which has been backed by defectors from the prime minister’s own party, Tehreek-e-Insaf or Justice Party, and a former coalition partner, the Muttahida Quami Movement, which had joined opposition ranks. The opposition claims it had the numbers to oust Khan in parliament. It has also accused him of economic mismanagement.

The current political conundrum is in many ways unchartered territory, even for Pakistan, where successive governments have been overthrown by a powerful military and others ousted before their term ended.

The most significant decision before the Supreme Court is whether Suri, the deputy speaker, had the constitutional authority to throw out the no-confidence vote, according to constitutional lawyer Ali Zafar.

Zafar told The Associated Press that the court also has to decide whether it even has the authority to rule on this matter. Khan’s party insists actions of a parliament speaker are privileged and cannot be challenged in court.

If the court rules the deputy speaker was out of line, the parliament will reconvene and hold the no-confidence vote on Khan, legal experts say. If the court upholds the latest actions, Pakistan is heading into early elections.

The opposition says it has the 172 votes in the 342-seat assembly to oust Khan. After Suri on Sunday threw out the no-confidence motion, information minister and another Khan ally, Fawad Chaudhry, accused the opposition of plotting “regime change” with the backing of the United States.

Pakistan’s powerful military — which has directly ruled the country for more than half of its 75-year history — has remained silent through much of the political infighting.

However, Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa on Sunday distanced the military from allegations of a U.S.-backed conspiracy, saying Pakistan wants good relations with both China and the U.S., Pakistan’s largest trading partner.

Khan, an outspoken critic of Washington’s war on terror and Pakistan’s partnership in that war, claims the U.S. wants him gone because of his foreign policy choices and for refusing to distance Pakistan from China and Russia.

“We support the peaceful upholding of constitutional democratic principles. That is the case in Pakistan. It is the case around the world,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price about Pakistan and allegations of U.S. attempts to oust Khan. “We do not support one political party over another; we support the broader principles, the principles of rule of law, of equal justice under the law.”

However, Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center, sees the latest political wrangling as just another “part of a recurring pattern in Pakistan of governments undermining the democratic process to maintain their hold on power. “

It underscores a deeply polarized society, Kugelman added. While Khan’s supporters may think dissolving parliament was a “stroke of genius” to avoid a no confidence vote, his critics “think he has acted recklessly and essentially pulled off a legal coup, plunging the country into a constitutional crisis.”

Separately, Pakistani President Arif Alvi, another Khan ally, was ignoring Monday’s deliberations before the Supreme Court and was forging ahead with preparations for an interim government that would see Pakistan through elections. Under the constitution, Khan would remain prime minister until the appointment of a caretaker premier, Alvi said in a tweet.


Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed in Islamabad and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report. Follow Kathy Gannon on Twitter at www:twitter.com/Kathygannon

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Republican presidential candidates, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, talking with forme...

Associated Press

The GOP debate field was asked about Trump. But most of the stage’s attacks focused on Nikki Haley

The four Republican presidential candidates debating Wednesday night mostly targeted each other instead of Donald Trump.

3 days ago

Law enforcement officers head into the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, campus after reports of an ...

Associated Press

Police say 3 dead, fourth wounded and shooter also dead in University of Nevada, Las Vegas attack

Police said a suspect was found dead Wednesday as officers responded to an active shooter and reports of multiple victims at UNLV.

3 days ago

President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, leaves after a court appearance, July 26, 2023, in Wilming...

Associated Press

Republicans threaten contempt proceedings if Hunter Biden refuses to appear for deposition

House Republicans are threatening to hold Hunter Biden in contempt if he does not show up this month for a closed-door deposition.

3 days ago

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., listens to a question during a news conference, March 30, 2022, in W...

Associated Press

Tuberville is ending blockade of most military nominees, clearing way for hundreds to be approved

Sen. Tommy Tuberville announced Tuesday that he's ending his blockade of hundreds of military promotions, following heavy criticism.

4 days ago

An employee works inside the Hanwha Qcells Solar plant on Oct. 16, 2023, in Dalton, Ga. On Tuesday,...

Associated Press

US job openings fall to lowest level since March 2021 as labor market cools

U.S. employers posted 8.7 million job openings in October, the fewest since March 2021, in a sign that hiring is cooling.

4 days ago

Megyn Kelly poses at The Hollywood Reporter's 25th annual Women in Entertainment Breakfast, Dec. 7,...

Associated Press

The fourth GOP debate will be a key moment for the young NewsNation cable network

By airing the fourth Republican presidential debate, NewsNation network will almost certainly reach the largest audience in its history.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Dierdre Woodruff

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Follow @KTAR923...

The 2023 Diamondbacks are a good example to count on the underdog

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the World Series as a surprise. That they made the playoffs at all, got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card round, swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and won two road games in Philadelphia to close out a full seven-game NLCS went against every expectation. Now, […]



Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.

Top Pakistan court hears arguments in major political crisis