Explainer: Legal experts shed light on govt's controversial decisions

NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri dismissed no-confidence motion, but legal experts term it "unconstitutional"

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The no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan was dismissed abruptly Sunday after National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri termed it "unconstitutional", saying that it was backed by "foreign powers".

At the outset of the session, Law and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry read out Article 5 of the Constitution and accused the Opposition of "disloyalty to the state."

Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri then quickly disallowed voting on the no-trust motion and adjourned the session for an indefinite time. Later, on the prime minister's advice, President Arif Alvi dissolved the assemblies, with the premier asking the nation to gear up for fresh polls.

What is Article 5?

Article 5 of the Constitution of Pakistan reads:

Loyalty to State and obedience to Constitution and law.

(1) Loyalty to the State is the basic duty of every citizen.

(2) Obedience to the Constitution and law is the 10 [inviolable] 10 obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan.

'In violation of the constitution'

To get an understanding of whether this step was legal or not, Geo.tv reached out to legal expert Saroop Ijaz, who said that prima facie, it seems that this move is in violation of the Constitution as well as democratic norms.

“When a [no trust] motion has been tabled and when the attorney general has told the court that voting will go through, then this [move] seems to be a disregard of constitutional provisions,” he said.

Ijaz added that at the moment, the only arbitrator is the Supreme Court.

“The courts can intervene if an action within the house is with mala fide intent and without jurisdiction,” he added, “If the court decides that this is indeed mala fide, then in that case the prime minister’s advice to dissolve the national assembly will be declared null and void because the entire premise is that he is a prime minister against whom there is a vote of no confidence.”

Read more: What is Article 5 and does it apply to the no-trust move?

The lawyer further said that if the court decides against the speaker’s move, then the resolution of no confidence will be taken up again for voting.

“In my opinion, the courts can intervene and have said it multiple times themselves as well,” he told Geo.tv. “While courts are reluctant to intervene in internal proceedings of the house, this does not give the speaker blanket immunity to disregard the Constitution.”

'Completely unconstitutional'

Legal expert and talk show host Muneeb Farooq called the move by the prime minister to dissolve the assembly “completely unconstitutional”.

'No ifs and buts'

Legal expert Reema Omer tweeted that there are no “ifs and buts” and the “speaker’s ruling is blatantly unconstitutional”.

'This is a violation of the Constitution'

Talking to a private TV channel, legal expert Salman Akram Raja said the Opposition now only had the option to move the Supreme Court — which they did later in the day.

The legal expert, like all the others, said: "In my view, this is an unconstitutional ruling given by the speaker in response to a Constitutional move."

"This is a violation of the Constitution and the question remains whether the court will take up this issue. However, Article 69 of the Constitution says that any act by the NA or Senate shall not be intervened into by the top court."

'Remedy in constitution'

Advocate Salaar Khan said to address the rather "flaccid argument", if votes were bought or sold, the remedy is in the Constitution — disqualification of the defecting member.

"Despite what overnight constitutional experts may say, it doesn’t give you license to chuck the Constitution out the window," the legal expert added.

Clear subversion of Constitution 

Lawyer and anchor Abdul Moiz Jaferii said that the Article 69 on the Constitution that the Today's ruling of the speaker "was not an irregularity, but a clear subversion of the constitution".

Jaferii was of the view that Article 69 "limits the prohibition of inquiry only on the grounds of ‘irregularity of procedure’" and that the speaker's ruling can be changed in court.

"Secondly, when malice is clear from actions, you cannot hide behind good faith protections," said the lawyer.

Header image: Imran Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), gestures while addressing his supporters during a campaign meeting ahead of general elections in Karachi, Pakistan, July 4, 2018. — Reuters