President Dr Arif Alvi on Sunday dissolved the National Assembly on Prime Minister Imran Khan's advice under Article 58 of the Constitution.
"The president of Pakistan, Dr Arif Alvi, has approved the advice of the prime minister of Pakistan to dissolve the National Assembly under the Article 58 (1) read with Article 48(1) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan," according to a statement issued by the President's Secretariat.
Earlier today, Prime Minister Imran, in an address to the nation, said he had advised the president to "dissolve assemblies". According to Article 58 of the Constitution, the prime minister cannot dissolve the National Assembly unless a no-confidence motion, if filed against the chief executive, has been decided.
The premier's announcement came moments after National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, who was chairing today's session, threw out the no-confidence resolution against Prime Minister Imran Khan before voting could take place, terming it a contradiction of Article 5 of the Constitution, which says loyalty to the state is the basic duty of every citizen.
Suri’s ruling came after Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, in a speech on the floor of the house, urged him to disallow the no-trust resolution against the premier, referring to a threat received from a foreign country which had also been rebuked by the National Security Committee.
The government claims that the no-trust motion against the premier was a "foreign funded conspiracy", citing a 'threat letter' that was received from a foreign country through Pakistan's ambassador, asking for the removal of PM Imran.
In his address today, Prime Minister Imran congratulated the nation for the no-trust motion being dismissed, saying the deputy speaker had "rejected the attempt of changing the regime [and] the foreign conspiracy".
The premier said he had been receiving messages from many people who were worried, adding that "treason" was being committed in front of the nation. "I want to say, 'ghabrana nahi hai' (do not worry). God is watching over Pakistan."
He said he had written to the president with advice to dissolve the assemblies, adding that democrats should go to the public and elections should be held so the people could decide who they wanted in power.
Prime Minister Imran said the "billions of rupees" that had been spent to "buy" lawmakers' votes would be wasted and advised those who had taken money to donate it to orphanages and the poor.
"Prepare for elections. No corrupt forces will decide what the future of the country will be. When the assemblies will be dissolved, the procedure for the next elections and the caretaker government will begin," he added.
Shortly afterwards, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the prime minister's advice to dissolve the National Assembly had been sent to President Dr Arif Alvi under Article 58 of the Constitution.
According to Article 58, "The president shall dissolve the National Assembly if so advised by the prime minister; and the National Assembly shall, unless sooner dissolved, stand dissolved at the expiration of forty-eight hours after the prime minister has so advised."
In a separate tweet, Chaudhry said the cabinet had been dissolved while PM Imran would continue in office under Article 224 of the Constitution, which is related to elections and by-elections.
According to the article, after the dissolution of the NA, the president, in consultation with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, would appoint a caretaker prime minister.
It further states: "When the National Assembly or a provincial assembly is dissolved, a general election to the assembly shall be held within a period of ninety days after the dissolution, and the results of the election shall be declared not later than fourteen days after the conclusion of the polls."
But in the evening, the Cabinet Secretariat issued a notification stating that Imran Khan "ceased to hold the office of the prime minister of Pakistan with immediate effect".
The notification, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, read: "Consequent upon dissolution of the National Assembly by the president of Pakistan, in terms of Article 58(1) read with Article 48(1) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, vide Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs' SRO no. 487(1)/2022, dated April 3, 2022, Mr Imran Khan Niazi ceased to hold the office of the prime minister of Pakistan with immediate effect."
PM offers explanation of NA proceedings
Later in the day, PM Imran, while talking to his party officials, said he wanted to explain what had happened in the NA since "the opposition still can't understand [what has happened]."
He said a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) had "clearly said" that the no-confidence motion was subject to a foreign interference.
The premier said that in the NSC meeting attended by all the security chiefs, the minutes of the meeting and conversation between Pakistan’s former US ambassador Asad Majeed and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu were released in which it was "confirmed that it (no-trust motion) was a plan made from abroad in which Pakistan's internal politics were meddled with".
The prime minister alleged that US embassy officials had also met PTI dissidents, questioning the need for them to do so. He claimed that the meetings were a part of the no-confidence vote against him.
"When the country's highest security body confirms it (the conspiracy) then the NA proceedings and the number of [MNAs] there was irrelevant."
Rashid wishes dissolution of Punjab, KP assemblies as well
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid said it was his wish that provincial assemblies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were dissolved as well but the prime minister had not decided on the issue yet.
Rashid added he had suggested to the premier to impose emergency rule but it was disregarded since the apex court would have rejected such a move. He said it was his wish that general elections be held after Haj.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib said new elections would be held in 90 days.
Earlier today, Information Minister Chaudhry, who took the floor shortly after the NA session began, said that loyalty to the state was the basic duty of every citizen under Article 5(1). He reiterated the premier's earlier claims that a foreign conspiracy was behind the move to oust the government.
"On March 7, our official ambassador was invited to a meeting attended by the representatives of other countries. The meeting was told that a motion against PM Imran was being presented," he said, noting that this occurred a day before the opposition formally filed the no-trust move.
"We were told that relations with Pakistan were dependent on the success of the no-confidence motion. We were told that if the motion fails, then Pakistan's path would be very difficult. This is an operation for a regime change by a foreign government," he alleged.
The minister questioned how this could be allowed and called on the deputy speaker to decide the constitutionality of the no-trust move.
Suri, who chaired the session after opposition parties, in a surprise move, filed a no-confidence motion against Speaker Asad Qaiser, noted that the motion, which was submitted on March 8, should be in accordance with the law and the Constitution. "No foreign power shall be allowed to topple an elected government through a conspiracy," he said, adding that the points raised by the minister were "valid".
He dismissed the motion, ruling that it was "contradictory" to the law, the Constitution and the rules, and immediately prorogued the session.
While opposition leaders have condemned today's ruling by Suri and the subsequent dissolution of the National Assembly as a violation of the Constitution, the military has distanced itself from the political developments in the country.
“Army has nothing to do with the political process,” Major General Babar Iftikhar, the head of the military's public relations wing, told Reuters in response to a question about the institution's involvement in Sunday's developments.
Additional reporting by Tahir Sherani