Dismissing The Constitution
PM Imran Khan’s “surprise” on the day of the vote of no confidence came out of left field as National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri dismissed the no-confidence motion by terming it a contradiction of Article 5 of the Constitution, which says loyalty to the state is the basic duty of every citizen. By stating that the no-trust motion against the premier was a foreign funded conspiracy, the speaker disallowed the process from going any further which left the opposition parties in a state of shock and disbelief.
This politically expedient interpretation of the constitution did not stop here as soon after dismissing the no-trust motion, President Dr Arif Alvi, acting on advice of the PM, dissolved the National Assembly under Article 58 of the constitution. The PTI appears to be celebrating this as a triumph as the PM has stated that the future will be decided through elections. While elections would have been the sensible route to sort out the ongoing political crisis, there is consensus among legal experts that the actions taken by the government are entirely unconstitutional.
The actions of the deputy speaker have raised eyebrows as many feel that it was an outright misapplication of a constitutional article and that he had no authority to dismiss the process. First, there was a violation of timelines and now a disregard of what the Constitution mandates. It is clearly mentioned that the vote of no-confidence must be proceeded with to the exclusion of all other business once tabled, and that a prime minister facing a vote of no-confidence cannot ask the president to dissolve assemblies. Therefore, dismissing the motion under Article 5 was unconstitutional, and so was the decision to dissolve the Assembly. It must also be noted that the use of Article 5 in this case is also a charge sheet against the 86 parliamentarians, who had presented the motion, that they are acting against the interest of Pakistan.
In an attempt to manoeuvre itself out of this crisis, the government seems to have made the matters much worse as far as the political situation of the country is concerned. The military also unequivocally made clear that it has nothing to do with the ongoing developments and has denied Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed’s claims that the move had the support of the institution.
Now that the Supreme Court has been dragged into this process, it remains to be seen how it interprets this series of events. Many are of the view that the Supreme Court has the authority to, and will most likely invalidate the actions that were in contravention of the Constitution. This affair will now drag on until the Supreme Court comes up with a response, and in the meantime political actors on both sides will be war-gaming multiple scenarios that could play out. This is an unfortunate place where our political system finds itself in. A democratic system can only function if all political groups, leaders and institutions agree to adhere to a mutually agreed code, which in our context is the Constitution.