Pakistani President Arif Alvi has dissolved parliament upon the advice of embattled Prime Minister Imran Khan shortly after a motion of no confidence against the premier was stymied in parliament.
In a televised address to the nation on April 3, Khan said he’d advised the president to dissolve the national parliament and four provincial legislatures, adding that a caretaker government would be formed afterward and elections scheduled so that “the people can decide their future.”
Alvi’s office then issued a statement approving Khan’s recommendation, meaning that new elections must be held within 90 days.
Khan’s speech came moments after the deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Qasim Suri, dismissed a no-confidence motion against Khan, saying it was unconstitutional. Suri is a member of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) party.
The lower house of the parliament had been scheduled to discuss the no-confidence motion and vote on it on April 3. An alliance of several opposition parties claimed they had more than the required 172 votes to adopt the resolution and sack the prime minister.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, head of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party, told reporters that the opposition would begin a sit-in at the parliament and would appeal to the Supreme Court.
A statement later from Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said the Supreme Court would hear the "urgent matter" on April 4.
According to Article 58 of the constitution, the prime minister can advise the president to dissolve the national and provincial assemblies. But since Khan faced a no-confidence motion, he could not legally do so.
Once that motion was rejected, Khan immediately appealed to Alvi.
Following the move, Khan supporters gathered in the D-Chowk square in central Islamabad chanting slogans against the United States and Israel. Participants vowed that Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf party would be victorious in a snap election.
The political crisis was sparked last week when the PTI lost its majority in the national parliament after a coalition partner pledged to vote with the opposition and more than a dozen PTI lawmakers also defected, although the party has been trying to win them back.
Khan has accused the United States of manipulating the opposition because of his warm relations with Russia and China.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price has denied the allegations.
The opposition accuses Khan of mismanaging the economy and foreign policy, and political analysts also say Khan has fallen out with Pakistan's powerful military, whose support is critical for any party to attain power.
On April 2, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javad Bajwa expressed concern about Moscow's war against Ukraine, saying that "despite Russia's legitimate security concerns, its aggression against a smaller country cannot be condoned."
Bajwa also said Pakistan had enjoyed excellent defense and economic relations with Kyiv since Ukraine's independence, but that while some positive developments had taken place in its ties with Russia of late, its relations with Moscow had been "cold" for a long time for numerous reasons.
He added that Pakistan sought to expand ties with both the United States and China, which has refused to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine and criticized the West's punitive sanctions against Moscow.