ISLAMABAD: The country witnessed surprising political developments Sunday when President Arif Alvi dissolved the National Assembly on the advice of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The move came after Deputy Speaker National Assembly rejected the no-trust motion against the prime minister citing Article 5 of the Constitution, triggering a political crisis in the country.
Just as the session of the National Assembly started, former law and information minister Fawad Chaudhry read out Article 5 of the Constitution and accused the Opposition of "disloyalty to the state."
The former minister apprised the National Assembly about an "international conspiracy" to topple the democratically-elected government in Pakistan.
Fawad said in a normal situation, a no-confidence motion was moved under article 95 of the Constitution, but in this case, he requested the chair to invoke article 5(1) of the Constitution which stated “loyalty to the state is the basic duty of every citizen” while keeping in view the fact that it was being moved under an "international conspiracy".
The minister told the house that on March 7, Pakistan’s ambassador was summoned to an official meeting by a country — which PM Imran Khan has said was the United States — with the team of note-takers and was informed that a no-trust motion would be moved against the prime minister.
On March 8, he said the motion was submitted against the prime minister to the National Assembly Secretariat.
The minister said it was unfortunate that the regime change plot was being carried out at the behest of foreign elements under a conspiracy, adding that some of the government allies and PTI members also joined the plan.
“It is not the matter of no-confidence, it is a blatant violation of Article 5(1) of the Constitution,” he said putting a question before the House on whether foreign assistance could be taken for regime change in Pakistan?
“There should be a ruling on Article 5 (1),” he requested the chair.
At this, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri termed the no-confidence motion against the premier "unconstitutional", saying that it was backed by "foreign powers".
The deputy speaker then quickly disallowed voting on the no-trust motion and adjourned the session for an indefinite time — inviting strong criticism from the Opposition.
PM Imran Khan's brief public address was telecast live, where he said he was pleased with the NA deputy speaker's ruling and congratulated the nation on the development.
“The NA speaker has rejected the move intended at changing the regime and I congratulate the entire nation on it [...] Pakistan came into existence on 27th Ramzan, and this nation will not let such a conspiracy get successful."
He said that the NA deputy speaker made the decision using his constitutional right. “In a democratic society, the democrats look towards people, elections are held, and people decide who they want as the ruler.”
The prime minister said that all the money spent on "buying loyalties" will get wasted. He told the masses that whoever has taken this money still has the chance to spend it on charity.
“No foreign power or any corrupt elements, but only you have to decide for this country.”
He said that as soon as assemblies will be dissolved, the process of a caretaker government will start.
Later, while addressing the former parliamentarians, the prime minister, who will continue to remain in office under Article 224 till the appointment of a caretaker PM, said: "I told you, people, last evening to not worry. The Opposition is still confused as to what has happened to them."
In response to the political turmoil, Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar told Geo News the military has nothing to do with what happened today.
Replying to a question regarding the involvement of the Army in the political developments of the day, the DG ISPR bluntly denied any sort of involvement and said: "absolutely not".
As a result of the dissolution of the assembly, fresh elections will be held within 90 days in line with the Constitution of Pakistan. Not wasting time after the setback, the Opposition moved Supreme Court and the court itself took suo moto notice of the political crisis.
Opposition Leader in the NA and PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif, who was the front-runner to replace Imran Khan if he were removed, called the parliamentary block "nothing short of high treason".
"There will be consequences for blatant [and] brazen violation of the Constitution," Sharif said on Twitter, hoping the Supreme Court would play a role to uphold the Constitution.
Later, while speaking to Geo News, the Opposition leader said Imran Khan and his followers want to "distort" the face of democracy and the deputy speaker "tore apart" the constitution.
"Neither will he play nor let anyone else play," Shahbaz said on the prime minister's act of getting the no-confidence motion against him dismissed.
But the PML-N president said the top court does not rule in their favour of declaring the government's move unconstitutional, they would gear up for elections.
Similarly, former president Asif Ali Zardari termed the NA deputy speaker's step "unconstitutional" and now, it was up to the courts to decide on the matter.
"If they want it so bad, then we are ready for elections, we are ready for everything," the ex-president and PPP co-chairperson told journalists at the Parliament House.
More than 100 lawmakers from the Opposition parties signed the no-confidence motion, including PML-N's Ayaz Sadiq, PPP's Khursheed Shah and Naveed Qamar, and JUI-F's Shahida Akhtar Ali.
“[…] the resolution for removal from office of the Speaker, Mr Asad Qaiser under paragraph © of clause (7) of Article 53 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, read with Rule 12 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, 2077,” the document read.
But despite the deputy speaker adjourning the proceedings, the Opposition sat in the National Assembly and debated over the no-confidence motion, with ex-speaker and PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq charing the session.
Read more: Sacked Punjab governor Chaudhry Sarwar blasts PTI leadership
Another stunt that the government pulled off was switching off the lights of the lower house of parliament, which seemed like an attempt to either disrupt their political activity or to send them out of the premises.
A total of 197 Opposition members voted in favour of the no-confidence motion.
Legal experts Muneeb Farooq, Salman Akram Raja, Salaar Khan, Reema Omar, and Saroop Ijaz termed the government's move to use Article 5 for dismissing the no-confidence motion unconstitutional.
“When a [no trust] motion has been tabled and when the attorney general has told the court that voting will go through, then this [move] seems to be a disregard of constitutional provisions,” Ijaz told Geo.tv.
Advocate Khan said to address the rather "flaccid argument", if votes were bought or sold, the remedy is in the Constitution — disqualification of the defecting member.
"Despite what overnight constitutional experts may say, it doesn’t give you license to chuck the Constitution out the window," the legal expert added.
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