ISLAMABAD: Only a day after Fawad Chaudhry as the law minister issued directives for formation of a commission to investigate the alleged foreign conspiracy behind the no-confidence resolution against Prime Minister Imran Khan, Qasim Suri in his controversial ruling declared that “circumstances show that there is a nexus between the no-confidence motion, foreign intervention and the activities of the state’s representatives deputed to Pakistan”.
Mr Suri, in his detailed four-page ruling issued by the National Assembly Secretariat on Sunday evening, declared a “foreign state was interfering in the internal affairs of Pakistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan was its primary target”. He did not mention the foreign state despite the fact that PM Khan had already named the US in a slip of the tongue during an address to the nation.
He said he could not give details about the foreign intentions and its links to the no-confidence motion, but they could be provided in an in-camera session. Mr Suri also based his ruling on the recent meetings of the National Security Committee, federal cabinet and Parliamentary Committee on National Security that were briefed on the ‘threat’.
He stated a PCNS meeting was arranged for briefing on the issue on March 31, but the opposition chose to boycott or ignore it. However, as a speaker and custodian of the House, he asked the government functionaries to provide him the facts and information subject to the applicable laws, the ruling stated.
Suri claimed “there existed a campaign to oust and remove the democratically elected government headed by Imran Khan through different means, including the motion for no-confidence”. He said as the custodian of the House he could not “remain indifferent or act as an unconcerned spectator let alone be instrumental in this unconstitutional act of change of government and the prime minister orchestrated by a foreign state”. The no-confidence motion could not be entertained in these circumstances and had to be rejected, he explained.
Legal fraternity chips in
Deputy Attorney General Raja Khalid Mehmood Khan, who announced his resignation on Sunday, told a TV channel that “something like this can be expected by a dictator, but this has never happened in Pakistan’s history under a democratically elected leader”. He claimed was not consulted and in his opinion neither was the attorney general.
He termed the deputy speaker’s ruling unconstitutional. “I am of the considered view that the case against Imran Khan falls under Article 6 (treason).”
Lawyer Faisal Chaudhry, a brother of former information minister Fawad Chaudhry, defended the ruling, saying certain judgements of the Supreme Court put Article 5 of the Constitution “above all other matters”, and that the apex court would have to take a deeper look into ‘Lettergate’.
Legal wizard and PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan was of the view that if the no-trust motion was against the rules the speaker’s office should have rejected it without bringing it on the assembly’s agenda. Once the resolution had been placed on the agenda, it became property of the House.
Supreme Court Bar Association President Ahsan Bhoon told reporters outside the apex court Mr Suri had no option but to put the resolution to vote. The president, prime minister, law minister and the deputy speaker could be tried under Article 6 for treason, he believed.
Meanwhile, the Insaf Lawyers Forum, the lawyers’ wing of the PTI, condemned Mr Bhoon’s statement, and asked the SCBA not to become a party in the political battle.
Senior lawyer Akram Sheikh regretted this was the first government that had bulldozed the Constitution and the rule of law under the guise of democracy. He explained Article 5 could not be invoked at this stage since the assembly session was called for counting of votes on the no-trust motion.
PM’s stay in office
Later in the evening, the Cabinet Division issued a notification, declaring that Imran Khan ceased to hold the prime minister’s office with immediate effect.
“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… Mr Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi ceases to hold the office of prime minister of Pakistan, with immediate effect,” the notification read.
However, Dr Shahbaz Gill claimed the notification was a requirement even after which Mr Khan will continue to hold the office under Article 224(4) of the Constitution until the appointment of a caretaker PM.
Talking to Dawn, AGP Khalid Jawed Khan also said the PM could hold the office for eight days under Article 224A(4) until a caretaker set-up was announced.
Amir Wasim, Nasir Iqbal in Islamabad also contributed to this report.
Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2022