ISLAMABAD: A crucial session of the National Assembly to vote on whether to remove Imran Khan as prime minister, days after he blocked a similar attempt, was adjourned until 12:30 pm.

The session is being chaired by Speaker Asad Qaiser in accordance with the directives of the Supreme Court. It began at 10:30 am sharp with the recitation of the Quran which was followed by the national anthem and prayer for a deceased parliamentarian.

A unified opposition that stretches the political spectrum from left to radically religious says it has the 172 votes it needs in the 342-seat Lower House to oust Khan.

Before the adjournment, opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif, expected to become prime minister if Imran Khan is ousted, addressed the assembly, urging Qaiser to ensure the vote was carried out as a matter of priority.

Taking the floor after Sharif, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi demanded an investigation into ruling party allegations that the no-confidence vote was a ploy by the opposition and America to unseat Khan.

He said the opposition had the right to table the motion against the prime minister, but added that defending it was his obligation. “We intend to fight it in a constitutional, political and democratic manner,” he asserted.

He said that it was obligatory for us to respect the Constitution.

“Pakistan’s history is full of constitutional violations,” he said, adding the doctrine of necessity should have been buried earlier. “I am happy that Pakistan’s democracy has evolved and that we all are not ready to take its support,” he added.

“Today is Saturday and the session has started at 10:30 am. The court said the session will not be prorogued unless the process of Article 95 and rule 37 is concluded,” he said.

However, it is important to present the context under which the court directed to summon the session again. He said that the clock was turned back and the apex court unanimously dismissed the April 3 ruling.

The minister said that the prime minister went to the people by dissolving the assembly, adding that the opposition had been calling for early polls for close to four years.

He reiterated that the government had accepted the court’s decision but questioned why the opposition parties went to the court and why the SC took suo motu notice.

“The ruling the deputy speaker gave when he was chairing the session and he did not reject the constitutional process. He said a new situation had surfaced and that it should be probed in its light.”

Qureshi added the National Security Committee (NSC), the country’s top security forum, saw the cable and concluded it was a sensitive matter.

“The NSC took two decisions. First, they acknowledged there was interference in Pakistan’s internal matters and that a demarche must be issued,” he said, adding the Foreign Office then followed the directive.

“The second was to immediately summon the Parliamentary committee on National Security and for the matter to be presented before elected representatives so that they can get to the bottom of things.”

Subsequently, Speaker Qaiser ended the debate without commenting on the call for an investigation before the vote and instead adjourned Parliament until 12:30 pm. Khan was not present.

The speaker also said he would implement the court order “in true letter and spirit”.

Ahead of the vote that Khan is widely expected to lose, the former cricket star vowed to “struggle” against any move to replace him, the latest twist in a crisis that has threatened political and economic stability in the nation.

Khan acted “unconstitutionally” last Sunday in blocking a no-confidence vote and dissolving parliament, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, ordering National Assembly to reconvene.

Lawmakers return to National Assembly around 10:30 am. The vote brought by opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif, the front-runner to replace Khan, is the fourth point on the day’s agenda.

Orders of the day for the session of the National Assembly to be held on Saturday, the 9th April, 2022 at 10:30 a.m.#NASession @appcsocialmedia @PTVNewsOfficial @PTV_Parliament @demp_gov @GovtofPakistan

— National Assembly of Pakistan?? (@NAofPakistan) April 8, 2022

The prime minister who surged to power in 2018 recently lost his parliamentary majority when allies quit his coalition government. Opposition parties claim he has failed to revive an economy battered by Covid-19 or fulfil promises to make Pakistan a corruption-free, prosperous nation respected on the world stage.

The opposition and some analysts say Khan has fallen out with the military, a charge he and the military deny.

“It is very simple that whoever has a majority has a right to form a government,” said Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, a former prime minister. “If Imran Khan has a majority he can form a government or else we will.”

The prime minister, who enjoyed widespread popular support when he took office, said late on Friday he was disappointed with the court ruling but accepted it. He had called an election after dissolving parliament.

But he said he would not recognise any opposition government that replaced him.

“I will not accept an imported government,” he told the nation in a late-night address, suggesting the move to oust him was part of a foreign conspiracy and calling for peaceful protests on Sunday. “I’m ready for a struggle.”

Khan opposed the US-led intervention in Afghanistan and has developed relations with Russia since becoming prime minister. He has accused the United States of supporting a plot to oust him, without offering evidence of his claim, which Washington has dismissed.

As the turmoil continued, the rupee hit all-time lows on Thursday and foreign exchange reserves tumbled. The central bank raised its benchmark interest rate by 2.5 percentage points, the biggest hike since 1996.

If Khan loses the no-confidence vote, the opposition will put forward a candidate for prime minister.

Sharif, the younger brother of disgraced three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, said after the court ruling that the opposition had nominated him to take over should Khan be ousted.

— With input from Reuters, AP

This content was originally published here.

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