Spotlight on Pakistan Supreme Court amid constitutional crisis

A five-judge bench headed by Pakistan’s chief justice is hearing multiple petitions challenging Khan’s dissolution of the National Assembly.

Police officers walk past the Supreme Court of Pakistan building, in Islamabad
Police officers walk past the Supreme Court of Pakistan building, in Islamabad, Pakistan on April 6, 2022 [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s Supreme Court has again delayed ruling on the legality of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s move to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections.

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court continued on Wednesday to hear multiple petitions challenging Khan’s dissolution of parliament, which followed after the parliament’s deputy speaker dismissed a no-confidence vote against Khan that he had looked set to lose.

The court hinted that it might give a ruling on the dissolution on Thursday.

No prime minister has ever completed a full term in Pakistan’s 75-year history, which has been marred by frequent coups by the country’s powerful military, and the fate of Khan now hangs in the balance amid a political and constitutional crisis that has gripped the South Asian nation of 220 million people.

Khan has alleged that foreign powers are behind a conspiracy to have him toppled from power.

“Khan has no evidence to prove his allegations,” Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) spokeswoman Marriyum Aurangzeb told reporters outside the Supreme Court.

Aurangzeb accused Khan of misleading the nation about an international conspiracy to topple his government, and she expressed hope that the Supreme Court’s ruling would overturn the dissolution and ensure that no one would again “dare abrogate the constitution in future”.

Former planning minister and PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal also said his party hoped the court ruling would safeguard the supremacy of Pakistan’s constitution.

Supporters of the united opposition chant slogans outside parliament building Islamabad
Supporters of the united opposition chant slogans outside the parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan on April 3, 2022 [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

Accusing the United States of being behind efforts to topple his government, Khan had asked opposition leaders to accept new elections rather than “being part of a conspiracy for regime change”.

The Supreme Court judges have questioned the validity of the conspiracy claims and whether they were “based on accusations not facts”.

“Where are the minutes of NSC [National Security Council] meeting?” Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked lawyer Babar Awan, who represented Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in the court.

Awan said that a letter of protest was sent by Pakistan to the country that had made the threat of regime change, and the only solution to the current crisis was to hold new elections.

Pakistan’s security services, according to Reuters news agency, have not found credible evidence of a foreign conspiracy against the embattled prime minister.

Khan came to power in 2018 in elections tainted by allegations of vote rigging and that he had the support of Pakistan’s powerful military. But differences over governance and Khan’s handling of foreign policy have created rifts and severed his relations with military chiefs.

Opposition leaders have also demanded that military leaders step in and tell the truth about a US diplomatic cable, which Khan’s ruling PTI government claims called for regime change.

Pressure on Khan is intensifying.

Aamir Liaquat Hussain, a former MP from Khan’s PTI and a well-known TV host, tweeted on Tuesday night that Khan was lying about the cable being evidence of a foreign conspiracy against his government.

Court jurisdiction

Representing Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi in the Supreme Court, advocate Ali Zafar raised objections on Wednesday over the court’s jurisdiction in taking up the opposition’s case against the dissolution.

Zafar said the Supreme Court’s consideration of a National Assembly matter was interference in parliamentary affairs and any ruling would be overstepping the court’s jurisdiction.

Leader of the opposition Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif
Leader of the opposition Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, brother of ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, gestures as he speaks to the media at the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Islamabad, Pakistan on April 5, 2022 [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

A group of more than 100 academics, civil society representatives and ordinary citizens wrote an open letter to the chief justice of Pakistan expressing “grave concerns over the prevailing political and constitutional crisis”.

The letter said the “honour and well-being of our future generations” is safeguarded by adherence to the constitution.

“Today, we pin all our hopes on your lordship to uphold the constitution and stand by the people of Pakistan in this hour of need,” the statement said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies