Thursday April 18, 2024

All eyes on SC as country plunges into constitutional crisis

Constitutional crisis hit the country after the National Assembly deputy speaker rejected the no-confidence resolution

By Asim Yasim & Muhammad Anis & Sohail Khan
April 04, 2022
Supreme Court of Pakistan. The News/File
Supreme Court of Pakistan. The News/File

ISLAMABAD: A constitutional crisis hit the country on Sunday after the National Assembly deputy speaker rejected the no-confidence resolution, filed by the joint opposition against Prime Minister Imran Khan, after declaring it unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan took suo moto notice of the Assembly proceedings and restrained the state institutions as well as the political parties from taking any unconstitutional acts and exploiting the situation.

Earlier, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government sprang a surprise on Sunday by getting disallowed voting upon no-confidence resolution of the combined opposition through a ruling of the chair in the National Assembly. Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, in his ruling, rejected no-confidence resolution, terming it in violation of the Constitution, and immediately prorogued the requisitioned session of lower house of the Parliament.

Editorial: Constitutional crisis

Within an hour of prorogation of the House, the President dissolved the National Assembly on an advice of Prime Minister Imran Khan in terms of Article 58 (1) of the Constitution. "I have sent an advice to the President to dissolve the National Assembly and the nation should get ready for fresh elections," Imran Khan said in his address to the nation said.

The chair gave ruling in response to a request of Law Minister Fawad Chaudhry to reject no-confidence resolution, without hearing viewpoint of any of the opposition members sitting in the House.

The deputy speaker, in response to a request from the newly appointed law minister Fawad Chaudhry, said in his ruling that no foreign country had the right to intervene to topple an elected government of a country. He ruled that he rejected and disallowed the no-confidence resolution, terming it against the Constitution and Rules. "The points raised by the law minister are valid and I rule that opposition's no-confidence resolution is against the Constitution," he said, adding the minister also said that as per Article 5 of the Constitution, it is duty of every citizen to show loyalty to the state.

Read more: SC ruling will come near election day, says Rashid

The deputy speaker, in his detailed ruling, said the motion of no-confidence against the PM was apparently linked with and had clear nexus with the efforts of the foreign state to bring about change of government, and it could not be entertained or allowed to be voted upon in the august house and must be rejected emphatically as it never could ever be the intent of the Constitution.

"The fundamental existential issued should be clearly settled first leaving no doubt or taint of external interference or collusion of Pakistani citizens including few members of the National Assembly, if any in this unholy venture," the ruling added.

The ruling was also signed by NA Speaker Asad Qaisar, saying that he agreed with it fully. The detailed ruling, issued later in the evening, said as the deputy speaker and custodian of the House and bound by the oath taken by him under Constitution of Pakistan to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, could not remain indifferent or act as unconcerned, let alone be unconstitutional act of change of government or prime minister by a foreign state.

"The present motion of no-confidence, being the very essence of the internal proceedings, cannot be entertained or allowed by me to proceed in these circumstances and has to be disallowed and rejected accordingly," the ruling said.

Read more: Legal experts say Article 5 ‘misinterpreted, misused’

The ruling said that gist of content of correspondence (cypher) indicated a foreign state was interfering in internal affairs of Pakistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan was the primary target. "The circumstances show that there was nexus between the intervention of foreign state in internal affairs of Pakistan, no-confidence move and foreign state's representatives to Pakistan," it said.

Earlier, Law Minister Fawad Chaudhry, taking the floor, said that Pakistan's ambassador was called at a meeting on March 7 where officials from other countries were also present. "Our ambassador was told a no-confidence resolution is being moved against your Prime Minister at time when nobody in Pakistan knew about that," he said.

Fawad Ch said the Pakistani ambassador was told that relations with his country would depend on success of the no-confidence resolution. "If no-confidence resolution succeeds, then you will be forgiven; otherwise, your part will be very hard," according to minister, the ambassador was told.

The law minister said that it was an effective operation by a foreign country to change regime of another country and in the meantime the conscience of 22 members of the ruling party and allies were also awakened suddenly. "Whether this nation of 220 million people is so weak that external powers change governments here and whether it is not violation of Article 5 of the Constitution," he questioned the chair.

He also questioned as to whether people of Pakistan were puppets, slaves or according to the opposition leader, they were beggars. He demanded the chair give ruling on the same.

The speaker did not chair proceedings of the House after the combined opposition submitted no-confidence resolution against him in the National Assembly on Sunday morning. Syed Naveed Qamar, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Murtaza Javed Abbasi and Shahida Akhtar Ali submitted the resolution to senior officials of the National Assembly Secretariat.

Later, the Supreme Court Sunday evening restrained the state institutions from taking any extra-constitutional steps and directed them to act strictly in accordance with the Constitution besides asking all political forces of the country to remain peaceful.

A three-member apex court bench, headed by Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsen and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, heard the suo moto notice, taken by the chief justice of Pakistan, on the current situation.

CJP Umer Ata Bandial took notice of dismissal of a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan by National Assembly (NA) Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri.

The CJP, while hearing the matter, issued notices to Attorney General as well as Secretary Ministry of Defence besides directing Secretary Defence as well as Secretary Interior to submit before it today (Monday) report regarding law and order situation.

“The office has initiated a note stating events that took place today in the National Assembly and have been widely reported on electronic and social media that motion of no-confidence against the Prime Minister of Pakistan was to be voted upon by the National Assembly today i.e. 03.04.2022. However, reportedly the (Deputy) Speaker of the National Assembly has dismissed the said motion in the light of Article 5 of the Constitution of 1973,” says the court order.

“Several judges of the court met me earlier today to share their concern about the constitutional situation, following the rejection of the motion of no-confidence against the Prime Minister by the Deputy Speaker on the basis of Article 5 of the Constitution,” the CJP noted in the order.

The court further noted that the matter was accordingly registered as SMC No 1 of 2022 and fixed for hearing, which was attended by three judges. The hearing was attended by the Attorney General for Pakistan, the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association along with the other counsel representing different parties, noted in the title of the order.

The court issued notice to Attorney General on the constitutionality of the decision of the Deputy Speaker to dismiss the motion of no confidence on the basis of Article 5 of the Constitution.

“It is contended that, prima facie, there is neither a finding recorded in the matter nor was a hearing granted to the affected party. We would also like to examine whether such action is protected by the ouster contained in Article 69 of the Constitution,” said the order.

The court directed all political parties involved in the process of the no-confidence motion in the National Assembly and other political forces to observe the law and maintain peace and public order.

“No state functionaries or bodies shall take any extra-constitutional measure and shall act strictly in accordance with Constitution and the law as guided by the principles, laid down by this court in the case of Sindh High Court Bar Association vs. Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2009 SC 879). Any order passed by the Prime Minister and the President shall be subject to the order of this Court,” the court noted down in its order.

During the hearing, the court was also informed that Pakistan People’s Party as well as the Supreme Court Bar Association have filed Constitutional Petitions under Article 184(3) of the Constitution on the same subject.

The court directed its Registrar office to issue notices to the respondents therein and to all the political parties that are already before it. Constitutional Petition No 2 of 2022 i.e. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Pakistan Muslim League-N, Pakistan People’s Party, Jamiat Uleme-e-Islam-F, Balochistan National Party-Mengal and Awami National Party through their respective Secretary Generals, who would be heard only through their counsel on their behalf.

Similarly, the court also issued notice to Supreme Court Bar Association and the Pakistan Bar Council to assist the Court in these suo moto proceedings and the Constitution Petitions filed under Article 184(3).

The court said that Attorney General for Pakistan be also issued notice under Order XXVIIA CPC in these matters.

During the hearing, Azam Nazeer Tarar advocate stated that the proceedings of the Punjab Provincial Assembly were fixed today for the election of the new Chief Minister of Punjab. These proceedings have been adjourned by the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly to another date without citing any reason or cause.

It was further informed that a large number of MPAs are still on the premises of the House of the Provincial Assembly which is creating an unpleasant situation both inside and outside the House.

The court directed that notice under Order XXVIIA CPC be issued to Advocate General Punjab to examine the vires of the decision by the Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Assembly and the situation that has arisen as a consequence thereof.

The court noted in the order that all the political parties involved in the process of election of the new Chief Minister shall exercise restraint and maintain peace and public order. “It is directed that the state functionaries and the law enforcement agencies of the Province shall ensure that peace and public order is maintained in the Province and they act strictly in accordance with the Constitution and the law guided by the principle laid down by this Court in the Sindh High Court Bar Association’s case,” says the order.

The court further noted that since these matters relate to an urgent issue, therefore, office was directed to fix the same today (Monday) at 1pm before a larger bench.

During the hearing, the Chief Justice observed that they know well about the National Assembly proceedings. “This is very important issue and will be looked into today (Monday),” the CJP said adding that due to the sacred month of Ramazan, they did not want to linger on the instant proceedings.

Earlier, President Dr Arif Alvi on the advice of Prime Minister Imran Khan dissolved the National Assembly. Meanwhile, after the situation, the staff of Chief Justice of Pakistan arrived in the Supreme Court while, according to sources, Chief Justice deliberated on the situation at his residence with judges of the Supreme Court and later on arrived in the evening at the apex court, constituted a three-member bench of the apex court for hearing the instant matter.

Similarly, President Supreme Court Bar Association Ahsen Bhoon as well as Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarian also filed petition in the Supreme Court. The SCBA prayed to the apex court to declare that the impugned order of dissolution of the National Assembly, issued under Article 58(1) of the Constitution, was without lawful authority and of no legal effect.

In his petition, Ahsen Bhoon submitted that on April 3, 2022, the Speaker did not preside over the meeting of the National Assembly and instead the Deputy Speaker presided over.

He submitted that Deputy Speaker read out the ruling of the Speaker to the House stating that the resolution for the vote of no-confidence against the Prime Minister is unconstitutional and is, therefore, rejected.

As a consequence, the resolution was not voted upon by the membership of the National Assembly”, he contended adding that immediately, after reading the ruling issued by the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker proceeded to prorogue the session of the National Assembly. Within minutes of prorogation of the session, the Prime Minister gave an advice to the President under Article 58(1) of the Constitution.

He stated that the President immediately, upon receipt of the advice, has issued the order of dissolution of the National Assembly. All the aforesaid events have occurred on April 3, 2022.

“These facts and circumstances triggered a constitutional crisis of the magnitude not witnessed in the parliamentary history of the country,” the SCBA president submitted, adding that the matter was of great public importance relatable to enforcement of several fundamental rights of the citizens of the country including, members of the petitioner.

He sought indulgence of the apex court in its original constitutional jurisdiction, to determine the questions raised in the instant Petition submitting that the Speaker and Deputy Speaker have violated Rule 37(8) by proroguing the session of the National Assembly before disposing off the resolution for the vote of no-confidence against the Prime Minister.

PPP’s lawyer Farooq H Naek stated that the SC should issue restraining order; otherwise, martial law may be imposed in country. The CJP said they had already given the order, the case would be heard on Monday.

Nawaz Sharif, meanwhile, tweeted that a crazy person had trampled the Constitution under his feet in the lust of power. He said that Imran Khan and all those characters involved in the conspiracy committed high treason and Article 6 should be applied on them. He warned that they all would be held accountable for committing injustice to Pakistan violating the Constitution.