Scripted Parliamentary Coup!

Author raises questions on series of unexpected actions – rejection of No Trust Motion, PM’s Advice to President for dissolving the parliament and lastly the President’s prompt approval.

When immature politicians are imposed upon the country, such unparliamentary outcomes are natural.

Nazeer Ahmed Arijo

On April 3rd, the people of Pakistan saw an unprecedented happening in this country – a vote of no-confidence was turned down by the deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Qasim Khan Suri, on the ground of Article 5 of the constitution invoked by the former federal law minister Fawad Chaudhry. Fawad Chaudhry invoked Article 5 that, too, on the voting day, explaining that this article binds every citizen to be loyal to the country. Then federal minister in question further said that since there was a nexus between foreign hands – a veiled reference to a controversial cable called lettergate, and those movers of the motion, hence it was in contravention of the said Article. The deputy speaker after having endorsed it gave a ruling against the motion subsequently suspending the vote of no-confidence.

One is dismayed that having no findings /enquires that we’re suggesting any link between no-confidence movers and allegedly involved foreign government, yet the deputy speaker acted in a dictatorial manner and dismissed the motion. The deputy speaker did not even bother to give the floor to the combined opposition to have their point of view about the controversial article invoked. The manner and methods applied by the deputy speaker do demonstrate utter partisanship.

In principle, after becoming a speaker of the house, the chair is supposed to be impartial in every context. Surprisingly, various developments occurred in quick succession suggesting that there is some power empowering IK i.e. a script. The deputy speaker gives the ruling against a vote of no-confidence on the scheduled day; PM addresses the nation and announces that he has advised the President of Pakistan Arif Alvi to dissolve the National Assembly. Soon as the PM disclosed the dissolution of NA on his advice, a television ticker appeared confirming that the President dissolved the National Assembly citing Article 58. President is the constitutional head of the state, so he is bound to dispense his responsibility with rationale. Was there any rationale behind the dismissal of the National Assembly within minutes after the announcement by the PM when no-trust motion was dismissed under Article 5, seen by legal wizards as an extra-parliamentary action?

Being constitutional head, the president is supposed to drop the allegiance to the political party that got him elected. One wonders whether or not the president used his mind independently. Impartiality of the constitutional head is a legal commitment.

The consistency of issuing the ordinances on important matters that demanded parliamentary debate earned him the tag of being loyal to the party that propelled him to the presidency. Faced with looming defeat in the house as the combined opposition had gathered 197 parliamentarians whereas the government hardly roped in 140; the party in power bulldozed parliamentary procedure of holding a vote of no -confidence against the PM through illegal and unconstitutional exercise. It is to be kept in mind that the Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan had guaranteed on March 23 during the proceedings of Presidential Reference in SC regarding the interpretation of Article (63 A) that the vote of no-confidence would go ahead as planned. This did not happen. Is this not contempt of court? The deputy attorney general of Pakistan Raja Khalid Mahmoud resigned from the post having said that the government bulldozed the constitution hence he couldn’t represent the government. Legal experts like Khawaja Haris, Khawar Hussain, Hamid Khan, Ahsan Bhoon President Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), including former Attorney General of Pakistan Irfan Qadir, unanimously called the suspension of the no-trust vote by the deputy speaker an unprecedented and extra-constitutional practice.

Notwithstanding the dismissal of the National Assembly, the Cabinet division notified that Imran Khan ceases to be PM with immediate effect. Right now, there is neither NA nor the PM. Reportedly, President Arif Alvi has asked Imran Khan to continue to look after the affairs of the state until the appointment of a caretaker PM under Article 224(A). The combined opposition has termed these developments farce and undemocratic. There are constitutional crises as well as anarchy in the country. The Punjab Assembly was to choose the leader of the house, but it witnessed physical fighting by members of the provincial assembly, and as a result, the session was adjourned. While the legal experts are convinced that what the nation saw in the National Assembly – dismissal of the motion was an unconstitutional exercise on the part of the deputy speaker. However, it seems that a narrative is being fed to the population that, under current crises, calling for fresh elections is a viable option.

Fawad Chaudhry came up with a strange logic having said that speaker’s ruling can’t be challenged. Nor the court should hear such cases, adding further he said “The opposition should not run after ‘technical justice’, but prepare for fresh polls. This feeding speaks of a political script. And, polarization is being created to cultivate an environment for new elections in the country. Seemingly, Imran Khan being aware of losing the parliamentary match hence has deliberately done it on the ground of certain support from here and there. In doing so, the country is teetering on a constitutional crisis. Efforts are underway to engineer a “Middle Path” quoting constitutional crises in the country.

First and foremost, Imran Khan has lost the support of the majority in the National Assembly; how can a losing person decide the dissolution of the same? Let the combined opposition form the government since they enjoy the parliamentary support of the majority. It should be the privilege of this government whether or not to opt for fresh elections. An important question that arises is: When there is no second opinion about the dismissal of the no-trust vote being illegal according to constitutional experts, why are some people calling for a fresh mandate for political parties? Fundamentally, there is enough evidence of the deputy speaker overstepping his authority. This is tantamount to misconduct and misuse of power. Ideally speaking, this is high time to take those violating the constitutional obligation to the task so that none can dare do the same in the future. The inherent problem in Pakistan is its institutional failure to punish those abrogating constitution. The unfolding political crisis can be measured from the fact that the apex court has taken a notice of the parliamentary fiasco asking the combined opposition, the Supreme Court Bar Association to be parties of the same. The fragile political situation can be measured by the fact that despite Sunday, the SC has taken up the matter and fixed it to be heard by the three-member bench ruling that PM, President’s actions are subject to the court verdict. The combined opposition has demanded that the JCP constitute a full court to hear this case of a parliamentary match that was ended based on hearsay. The combined opposition’s this demand is logical since we saw that sometimes” in cases of laadilas” or their governments, laws are defined differently.

Ironically, the father of the constitution of 1973, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was physically eliminated on April 4, 1979, which turned out to be a judicial murder, the case of the parliamentary coup was fixed to be heard on April 4. Denouncing America for engineering a regime change in Pakistan based on assumptions will have its baggage for Pakistan in terms of imbalance in bilateral ties. It is very unfortunate that after having unleashed a coup in parliament -and this exercise called into question in the court of law, PTI has started holding celebratory processions across the country. The declining trend in Pakistan Stock Exchange speaks volumes about economic stagnation caused by political uncertainty in Pakistan already facing unemployment, inflation and poverty. Political instability unleashed by NA episode being discussed will further aggravate the already fragile economy. When immature politicians are imposed upon the country, such unparliamentary outcomes are natural.


Nazeer Ahmed Arijo- Sindh-CourierNazeer Ahmed Arijo, an educationist and a freelance writer.

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