Ally of Pakistan’s embattled Khan denounces ‘judicial coup’

3 mins read 3 mins read

Islamabad (Reuters) – A member of Pakistan’s government denounced on Friday a Supreme Court decision to quash an attempt by Prime Minister Imran Khan to block a no-confidence vote against him, saying the court’s ruling was akin to a “judicial coup”.

The court ruling late on Thursday that Khan must face the no-confidence vote, which he is widely expected to lose, meaning the former cricket star will be ousted as prime minister.

“A judicial coup happened last night … ending parliamentary supremacy!” Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said on Twitter.

Khan is due to address the nation later on Friday.

The Supreme Court ruled that Khan had acted unconstitutionally in blocking the no-confidence vote on Sunday, after which he dissolved parliament and called an election.

The court ordered that parliament be reconvened by Saturday and the no-confidence vote should go ahead.

Afterwards, Khan signalled his defiance with a cricketing term: “My message to our nation is I have always and will continue to fight for (Pakistan) till the last ball.”

Mazari also suggested that Khan and his allies would fight on.

“The long shadows hanging over this judicial decision think the game has been won but frankly it has just started,” she said.

Khan, who opposed the U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan and has developed relations with Russia since he became prime minister in 2018, has accused the United States of supporting a plot to oust him. Washington dismissed the accusation.

Mazari also brought up the alleged conspiracy, saying the court had “ignored” the issue of a “US attempt at regime change”.

The court ruling is the latest twist in a crisis that has threatened political and economic stability in the nuclear-armed country of 220 million people, with the rupee currency hitting all-time lows on Thursday and foreign exchange reserves tumbling.

Political chaos would worry the powerful military, which has stepped in to remove civilian governments and rule on three occasions, citing the need to end political uncertainty.

Ending Uncertainty?

But on Friday, markets opened on a positive note on hope the crisis might be easing. The Pakistan Stock Exchange was up 680 points, or 1.5%, and the rupee had rebounded from historic lows.

“The court decision will end political uncertainty and constitutional crisis to a large extent. This will help restore come confidence in the markets,” Muhammad Sohail of Karachi-based Topline Securities told Reuters.

“However economic challenges remain and it will be interesting to see how new set up takes bold steps to put things in order,” he added.

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

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

The opposition has said it wants early elections but only after delivering Khan a political defeat and passing legislation it says is required to ensure the next polls are free and fair.

The election commission has said the earliest it can hold elections is in October, which means any new incoming government will have to deal pressing economic issues before that.

The Dawn newspaper welcomed the Supreme Court ruling, saying the court had reasserted itself as the custodian of the constitution.

“It is hoped that the verdict, delivered just as matters seemed to be hurtling towards chaos, will be able to pull the country back from the precipice,” the English-language newspaper said.