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Pakistan president dissolves Parliament

ISLAMABAD (AP) – Pakistan’s president dissolved Parliament yesterday setting the stage for early elections after the prime minister sidestepped a no-confidence move earlier in the day.

Imran Khan asked President Arif Alvi to dissolve the National Assembly, or law-making lower house of Parliament, accusing his political opposition of working with the United States to overthrow his government.

The political chaos caused a constitutional crisis that was left to the country’s Supreme Court to sort. The court must decide whether Khan defied the constitution when Parliament’s deputy speaker, at the request of the minister of information, threw out the no-confidence resolution.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said opposition lawmakers violated the constitution’s article 5 demanding loyalty of its citizens by colluding with a foreign power to stage a “regime change”.

The opposition has challenged the deputy speaker’s constitutional authority to throw out the no-confidence vote, which they said they had the numbers to win.

Supporters of ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chant slogans during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan. PHOTO: AP

The chief justice of the Supreme Court, Umar Ata Bandial, has convened a hearing into the constitutional question later yesterday. The battle between Khan, a cricket star turned conservative Islamic leader, and his political opposition has mired the nation in political turmoil.

Khan, who was not in Parliament yesterday, went on national television to say he would ask Pakistan’s president to dissolve the body and hold elections.

“I ask people to prepare for the next elections. Thank God, a conspiracy to topple the government has failed,” Khan said in his address.

Pakistan’s constitution calls for the establishment of an interim government to see the country toward elections, which are to be held within 90 days. According to the constitution the interim government is to be established with input from the opposition.

The opposition arrived in Parliament ready to vote Khan out of power. They needed a simple majority of 172 votes in Pakistan’s 342-seat Parliament to unseat Khan, a cricket star turned conservative Islamic politician. Khan’s small but key coalition partners along with 17 of his own party members joined the opposition to oust him.

The political turmoil also caused the country’s security agencies to lock down the capital of Islamabad. Giant metal containers blocked roads and entrances to the capital’s diplomatic enclave and to Parliament and other sensitive government installations in the capital. A defiant Khan had called for supporters to stage demonstrations countrywide.

Khan has accused the opposition of being in cahoots with the United States to unseat him, saying America wants him gone over his foreign policy choices that often favor China and Russia. Khan has also been a strident opponent of America’s war on terror and Pakistan’s partnership in that war with Washington.