Pakistan’s top court resumes hearing into PM Khan’s bid to stay on

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Islamabad (Reuters) – Pakistan’s top court will on Tuesday resume its deliberations on the legality of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s attempt to block an opposition bid to oust him, a dispute that has led to political turmoil in the nuclear-armed country.

Former cricket star Khan lost his parliamentary majority last week and had been facing a no-confidence vote tabled by a united opposition that he was expected to lose on Sunday.

But the deputy speaker of parliament, a member of Khan’s party, threw out the no-confidence motion, ruling it was part of a foreign conspiracy and unconstitutional. Khan then dissolved parliament.

The stand-off has thrown the country of 220 million people, which the military has ruled for extended periods since independence in 1947, into a full-blown constitutional crisis.

The opposition has challenged Khan’s decision in a legal case in the Supreme Court that began on Monday, with a five-member bench of judges hearing arguments in a packed courtroom.

The court will reconvene at around noon (0700 GMT) on Tuesday. It has not said when it might reach a ruling.

The court could order that parliament be reconstituted, call for a new election or bar Khan from standing again if he is found to have acted unconstitutionally.

The court could also decide that it cannot intervene in parliamentary affairs.

Drawn-out legal proceedings would create a power vacuum with political and economic implications, including for talks with the International Monetary Fund for funds to support the cash-strapped economy.

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

Political analysts say the military viewed Khan and his conservative agenda favourably when he won a general election in 2018 but the generals’ support has since waned.

Khan denied ever having the backing of the military and the military says it has no involvement in the political process.