Pakistan’s Political Crisis: What Happens Next?
Pakistan’s supreme court will convene for the third time on Wednesday to rule on the legitimacy of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s weekend decision to dissolve the national legislature and schedule new elections.
The court has stated that it will only rule on whether the deputy speaker behaved in violation of the constitution by refusing to allow a vote on a no-confidence motion against Khan, despite the fact that this would have an impact on the assembly’s dissolution.
It also won’t examine Khan’s claim that the opposition joined an “international conspiracy” to depose him.
So, what are the possible court verdicts, and what are the ramifications?
The following are the most likely scenarios:
‘It isn’t our concern.’
The court may declare that the national parliament is responsible for its own norms and procedures and that the deputy speaker’s reluctance to hold a vote, which is an Imran Khan loyalist, is an issue for lawmakers to resolve.
Some legal commentators claim that it is a matter for the courts because the prime minister cannot ask the president to dissolve the assembly if a no-confidence vote is pending, according to the constitution.
Nonetheless, the court may rule that the refusal to vote effectively meant the subject was no longer pending, remanding the issue to the assembly — implying that the dissolution would most likely stand.
‘‘The deputy speaker acted illegally’
In this instance, the judgment would virtually overturn the subsequent decision to dissolve parliament, allowing members to reconvene and Khan to be forced out of office.
However, there is precedent.
After the legislature was disbanded by then-president General Zia-ul-Haq, who had gained power in a military coup years earlier, Muhammad Khan Junejo took his case to court in 1988.
It agreed that his administration had been disbanded illegally, but decided that since elections had already been scheduled, it was best to move on.
In the current crisis, no election date has been established, but a similar ruling could emerge.
In 1993, the court decided that President Ghulam Ishaq Khan had improperly disbanded the assembly, which was then dominated by Nawaz Sharif.
Despite the fact that the government resumed operations, it only lasted less than two months before being dissolved once more.
‘The deputy speaker acted legally’
If the court determines that nothing illegal occurred, it is likely that all following measures would be upheld, and Pakistan will hold elections within 90 days.
However, the enmity and bitterness that the subject has elicited means that the country now confronts greater political uncertainty.
Previous elections have been violent and chaotic, and a campaign season that begins around Ramadan and continues through the warmest months of the year will fray emotions and exacerbate tensions.
Khan’s anti-US rhetoric has also heightened the stakes, creating a possible flashpoint at campaign rallies.
‘No appeals against our decision’
On the topic, the supreme court has received a flurry of petitions and countersuits.
However, it stated that it was pursuing the matter “suo motu,” or on its own initiative.
The supreme court is officially independent, but rights groups claim that prior courts have been exploited to do the bidding of civilian and military governments throughout Pakistan’s history.
No decision will satisfy everyone, but as the highest court in the land, it would be responsible for hearing any potential challenges against its own decision.
That is improbable, and a final decision will almost certainly result in a return to the status quo and yet another round of political wrangling.
An election is required by law to be held before October 2023.