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ISLAMABAD: The joint opposition on Monday accused Prime Minister Imran Khan of imposing a “civilian martial law” in the country and urged the Supreme Court to form a full court bench to hear the “unconstitutional” steps of the government and address the constitutional crisis, created through the alleged abrogation of the Constitution.

Through a joint news conference addressed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) senior leader Asad Mahmood, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M)chief Akhtar Mengal, and others, they rejected Sunday’s steps of the government, saying that the National Assembly should be restored and fresh elections be held only after electoral reforms.

Commenting on the deputy speaker’s ruling on the no-confidence motion, Shehbaz Sharif said that what happened in the National Assembly on Sunday was a “planned conspiracy”.

He pointed out that on March 24, the speaker National Assembly granted leave to the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan, after getting approval from the House. He added that if there was anything in violation of Article 5, then why the Speaker granted leave for the motion.

“Because there was no possibility to bring any changes to the motion and it was about to be placed before the House for voting on Sunday; therefore, Imran Niazi through his “tool” – the deputy speaker – got dismissed the motion,” he said.

Shehbaz said that what happened in the National Assembly on Sunday was a blatant violation of the Constitution, adding that Imran Khan sabotaged the legal process by violating the Constitution for the sake of “his ego”.

“If the law is broken in the National Assembly, will no one be held accountable for it?” he asked, adding that he was hopeful that the Supreme Court, which is hearing the case, would further discuss the matter and give its verdict.

Talking about the “threat letter”, he pointed out that former Pakistan Ambassador to the US Asad Majeed Khan had been in touch with the US government authorities even after receiving the “threat letter”, which Imran Khan called a “foreign conspiracy” hatched to topple his government.

He further said that Ambassador Khan, in a tweet, had thanked the US government and even thanked Donald Lu (the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs) over good relations and cooperation, who has been accused of delivering the “threat letter” to the ambassador.

He said that the ambassador also hosted a farewell dinner on March 16, which was attended by US officials, even those who were accused by Imran Khan. He questioned that if the meeting took place on March 7 and if something about a “regime change” was conveyed that day, then why the ambassador hosted the US authorities for a dinner on March 16.

“These are very conflicting things and will haunt the nation for a very long time,” Shehbaz said, adding that if a “threat letter” was received on March 7, why wasn’t Article 5 brought up in March 24 session of the National Assembly.

As per the Deputy Speaker’s ruling in the assembly on Sunday, he questioned as to whether all the 197 lawmakers who were present to vote against the prime minister could be declared as “traitors.”

“This is a serious joke with the nation, with the parliament and the Constitution,” he maintained, alleging that the prime minister and the president have committed violation of the Constitution by dissolution of the National Assembly.

He further stated that it is a fact that no court can take notice of the proceedings of the house, “but when the law and the Constitution are violated, then does the Speaker enjoy immunity?”

Shehbaz asked. He claimed that Imran Khan had conveyed a message to the opposition to give him a “passage” with an offer made by him that he would resign if the opposition withdraws the no-trust motion. “But we refused to accept it and conveyed that we are not going to withdraw the motion even if you’re going to resign,” he added.

When asked whether being opposition leader in the National Assembly, he would respond to letter sent to him by the President for consultation process on the caretaker setup, Shehbaz said that the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker, and the Deputy Speaker have violated the Constitution.

“How is it possible to respond to a letter sent by a violator of the Constitution? No, it’s not possible,” he stated, adding that first, the judiciary decides the issue related to the no-confidence motion, then decision with regard to consultation process would be taken after consulting the joint opposition. Responding to the same query, Bilawal said as per the Constitution, the consultation process has to be between the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition. “If, according to them, there is no House) after dissolution of the NA), then who’s leader of the house and the leader of the opposition,” he asked.

He further stated that once no-confidence motion is tabled then there is no possibility in the Constitution to dissolve the assembly unless the voting on the motion is completed and it is disposed of. He urged the judiciary to address the “coup” staged by Imran Khan and let the process of voting on the no-confidence motion complete.

“We can only go for electoral reforms and an early election after the process on the no-confidence motion is completed legally and constitutionally,” he added.

Bilawal said that the Constitution has been “abrogated” in the National Assembly on Sunday, adding that it was the responsibility of everybody to come forward for the protection of the Constitution. He called the dismissal of the no-confidence move a “suicide for Imran Khan”.

“What has happened? What happened is that Imran Khan together with the President, Speaker, and Deputy Speaker, through “a conspiracy”, has “abrogated the Constitution to protect his “ego”. Now, the judiciary and the people of the country need to decide that whether Imran Khan’s ego is more important than the Constitution of Pakistan…Aren’t the National Assembly and the Supreme Court more important?” he asked.

He also recalled that this day – April 4 – marks the day of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s ‘judicial murder’, adding that the justice in ZAB case has never been dispensed as the presidential reference in this regard sent to the judiciary by then President Asif Zardari, is still pending with the judiciary.

“The judiciary couldn’t stop Zia’s coup; it couldn’t stop Musharraf’s coup; it couldn’t stop unconstitutional removal of Benazir Bhutto, but we are requesting and hoping the judiciary to stop Imran Khan’s “coup”,” he said, adding that the judiciary’s decision will write the future of this country.

“It has to be decided whether our Constitution is just a piece of paper or a document that protects the integrity and federation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” he stated, adding that the opposition also demands that a full-court bench is formed, immediately.

“If you want to hang us all in the pretext of being involved a foreign conspiracy, go for it and do it. But the process of the no-confidence motion needs to be completed and let the democratic process to continue,” he added.

MQM-P convener Maqbool Siddiqui demanded formation of a judicial commission to prove that Imran Khan is telling the truth that a foreign conspiracy was hatched, adding that if Imran proves right he would stand with him and if wrong then the judiciary should decide about his fate.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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