Pakistan crisis: SC seeks record of National Assembly proceedings on no-trust motion

Islamabad : Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday sought the record of the proceedings of the National Assembly conducted on the no-confidence motion filed against Prime Minister Imran Khan as it adjourned till Wednesday the hearing of the high-profile case.

National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri on Sunday ruled that the no-confidence motion was linked with a foreign conspiracy to topple the government and hence was not maintainable. Minutes later, President Arif Alvi dissolved the National Assembly on advice of Prime Minister Khan. The apex court within hours took suo motu notice of it and a five-member bench started hearing the case.

During the hearing on Tuesday, the court ordered the government to present minutes of the proceedings in the National Assembly after the no-confidence motion was presented.

Chief Justice Bandial said that the court only wanted to ascertain the constitutionality of the steps taken by the Deputy Speaker for the dismissal of the no-confidence of motion and subsequent dissolution of the National Assembly.

“Our sole focus is on the ruling of the Deputy Speaker…it is our priority to decide on that particular issue,” Chief Justice Bandial was quoted as saying by the Express Tribune newspaper.

The apex court wanted to see if the ruling of the Deputy Speaker could be reviewed by the bench, he said, adding that the court will merely decide on the legitimacy of the Speaker’s action. “We will ask all parties to focus on this point,” he added.

As the hearing resumed, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani and senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan presented their arguments before the court. Rabbani said that the court had to examine the extent of the “immunity” of parliamentary proceedings. “Whatever has happened can only be termed as civilian martial law,” he said.

He maintained that the Speaker’s ruling was “illegal”, Dawn news reported. “The no-confidence motion can’t be dismissed without voting on it,” he said, citing Article 95 of the Constitution.

Rabbani also said that a deliberate attempt was made to construct a narrative against the no-trust move while a foreign conspiracy was also touted. PML-N’s counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan said that the no-confidence motion was submitted to the NA with the signatures of 152 lawmakers while 161 had voted in favour of tabling it. “After that, proceedings were adjourned till March 31.” As per the rules, the counsel pointed out, a debate on the no-trust move was supposed to be conducted on March 31. “But a debate was not held,” he said, adding that voting was also not conducted on April 3.

After their arguments, the bench adjourned the hearing till Wednesday. Opposition lawyers during the hearing asked the court to issue at the earliest an order to settle the matter regarding the ruling.

The bench assured to come up with a verdict after hearing lawyers representing the government and the Opposition.

If Khan gets a favourable ruling, elections will take place within 90 days. If the court rules against the Deputy Speaker, the parliament will reconvene and hold the no-confidence vote against Khan, experts said.

Chief Justice Bandial had said on Monday that all orders and actions initiated by the prime minister and the president regarding the dissolution of the National Assembly will be subject to the court’s order.

The decision of the court would also determine the legality of the presidential order to dissolve the National Assembly. Former judge Shaiq Usmani said that the court would hear all lawyers and it would be a time-taking process.

“I feel there is a lack of strategy and all lawyers of different parties want to argue but there are almost repeating the main arguments,” he said, adding that the Opposition parties should have appointed one main lawyer to save time. He said since the attorney general, Khaled Javed Khan, has not yet presented his arguments, it may take another couple of days before the hearing would be concluded, followed by an order.

The political drama is being staged in the court as well as outside as both Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan and Opposition parties have been trying to paint each other as “traitors”.