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No-confidence resolution: Imran Khan can no longer dissolve National Assembly

March 10, 2022

ISLAMABAD: With the submission of the no-confidence resolution by the opposition parties, Prime Minister Imran Khan has instantly lost the power to dissolve the National Assembly at his will.

“The mere filing of the notice for the no-trust motion has robbed him of the power to disband the Lower House of Parliament that he was authorised to exercise at any time of his choosing,” constitutional expert Kashif Malik explained to The News.

This clause was inserted in the Constitution through the Eighteenth Amendment when the president’s discretionary power to dissolve the National Assembly was unanimously scrapped during the last tenure of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government. As a consequence, the notorious Article 58(2)(b) had been deleted.

In its present form, Article 58 says the president will dissolve the National Assembly if so advised by the prime minister; and the legislature will, unless sooner dissolved, stand dissolved at the expiration of 48 hours after being so advised. This means that the president has no power to delay the advice and has to implement the prime minister’s recommendation without any delay.

The explanation to the article takes away from the premier the power to dissolve the assembly when a notice for a no-trust motion has been filed. It says reference in Article 58 to the “prime minister" will not be construed to include reference to a prime minister against whom a notice of a resolution for a vote of no-confidence has been given in the National Assembly but has not been voted upon or against whom such a resolution has been passed or who is continuing in office after his resignation or after the dissolution of the assembly.

The article thus gives a discretionary power to the president in connection with the dissolution of the National Assembly on a specific condition. It says “the president may dissolve the National Assembly in his discretion where a vote of no-confidence having been passed against the prime minister, no other member of the National Assembly commands the confidence of the majority of the members of the assembly in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, as ascertained in a session of the assembly summoned for the purpose.”

In the present case, such a situation will arise only if Imran Khan is voted out through the no-trust motion and no other candidate for the office of the prime minister is able to get the support of the majority of the assembly members in its specially convened session to ascertain who has the majority with him.

It is publicly known that Imran Khan had threatened more than once during closed door discussions with his ministers, advisers and aides that he would not hesitate to dissolve the National Assembly if he was pushed against the wall.

However, this power no longer exists after the opposition parties submitted the no-confidence resolution against him to the National Assembly secretariat on Tuesday.

The legal expert said that the provision incorporated in the Constitution by the Eighteenth Amendment was good and justified otherwise a prime minister facing such a situation as Imran Khan is confronted with might have resorted to this option, fearing that he would be ousted on the force of a majority.

While submission of the notice for the no-trust resolution has given a fillip to the lobbying by the prime minister and opposition parties, particularly the PPP, to protect themselves in a do or die fight, it has narrowed Imran Khan’s constitutional and legal options. Any dilatory tactics to obstruct different stages culminating in the voting on the motion, which is not allowed under the Constitution, law and rules, will give rise to litigation in the superior courts.

“The relevant provisions about various phases to deal with such a resolution are crystal clear and take care of the smooth passage of the no-confidence resolution in the National Assembly.

Any deviation from them with the objective of delaying the process would not be tenable under the Constitution,” he said, adding that when the prime minister heartily welcomes the filing of the no-confidence motion notice stating that he was desperately waiting for such a trap for its sponsors, he should not drag his feet by spawning unnecessary legal complexities. Rather, he should hasten the process so that he, in his own words, defeats his rivals on the basis of his majority in the National Assembly.

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