Constitutional crisis deepens

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Contrary to expectations that the voting on the no-confidence resolution against the Prime Minister would help deflate the political crisis, the final outcome has, instead, plunged the country into a deeper constitutional and legal crisis.

Finding itself in a blind alley in the face of numerical superiority of the joint opposition parties, which managed to produce 176 members (against 172 required for the passage of the VONC), the Government took refuge behind a questionable ruling of the Speaker to reject the resolution without a vote, which was followed in quick succession a brief address to the nation by Prime Minister Imran Khan announcing that he has advised the Prime Minister to dissolve the National Assembly and subsequent dissolution of the assembly by the President within minutes.

Separately, in Punjab as well, the opposition had the majority to get its candidate elected by the Provincial Assembly but its session, held away from the watchful eyes of the media, was adjourned without the election.

The opposition, which is in a shock over what the Government did in the name of so-called ‘trump card’ or ‘master stroke’, has decided to adopt the Constitutional and legal course by knocking the door of the Supreme Court and it is now up to the apex court to extricate the country from the existing mess.

Constitutional and legal experts are unanimous that the Government acted in an unconstitutional and illegal manner and this point of view has also been upheld by the Attorney-General of Pakistan and his Deputy who declared that they would no more defend unconstitutional steps of the Government.

The no-confidence process was purely a constitutional method to remove an elected government and it is a big question mark whether a ruling of the Speaker can prevail over constitutional requirements.

It was obvious from the very beginning that the Government has lost its majority in the National Assembly and that it was trying to escape from the voting through different tactics including delay in summoning of the house, delay in discussion on the resolution, a presidential reference on article-63A of the Constitution, a bogey of a foreign-funded conspiracy to dislodge the Government of Imran Khan and even calls to the youth to come out on streets in big numbers to pressurize the opposition as well as Members of the National Assembly belonging to PTI who openly supported the move due to policy differences with the Government.

Same was the situation in Punjab, where the Government sprung a surprise by accepting resignation of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and convening of the session of the PA for the next day to elect a new Chief Minister.

PML(N) and the opposition parties were caught unprepared but they managed the situation and according to all media accounts Hamza Shahbaz enjoyed support of about 200 MPAs to become CM easily in a vote.

However, on the day of voting, the government sacked the Governor just to ensure that the Deputy Speaker, who belonged to a PTI faction, is not allowed to chair the session and conduct proceedings to the advantage of the opposition.

The intention of the ruling party was also evident from the fact that the entire proceedings of the assembly were conducted in-camera, raising questions about respect for rules, laws and the Constitution.

It is quite clear that the system cannot function smoothly if the Constitution is so blatantly violated for the sake of lust for power.

 

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