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Imran Khan to address Pakistan after SC scraps election plan, tells Parliament to take call

In unanimous verdict Thursday, Pakistan's apex court voided decision by deputy speaker that had cancelled a no-confidence vote against Khan & prompted the PM to call for an election.

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Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will address the country on Friday evening after the Supreme Court overturned his plan to hold an election, a move that could bring the opposition to power within days.

Khan, a former cricket star, said in a late night tweet that he will deliver an address after meeting with colleagues in his party and the cabinet. “My message to the nation is I have always & will continue to fight for Pak till the last ball,” he said.

A panel of five judges on Thursday night voided a decision earlier in the week from parliament’s deputy speaker — a member of Khan’s political party — that canceled a no-confidence vote, prompting him to call an election. The unanimous verdict reinstated the cabinet and parliament, and called for parliament to decide Khan’s fate on Saturday.

The opposition, led by Shehbaz Sharif, has said it has the numbers to oust Khan. It had initially decried his push to call elections as treasonous after the deputy speaker shocked the country by scrapping the no-confidence vote, citing Khan’s claims of a U.S. conspiracy to oust him from power.

“Today, politics of lies, deceit & allegations has been buried,” Sharif, who is likely to become prime minister barring any last-minute shifts, said on Twitter after the verdict. “People of Pakistan have won!”

The latest developments are further evidence that Khan has fallen out with Pakistan’s powerful army over a range of issues, including interference in military promotions, his rocky relationship with the U.S. and his management of an economy dealing with Asia’s second-fastest inflation. Just hours before the Supreme Court decision, the central bank surprised with the biggest rate hike since 1996 to shore up the currency and rein-in living costs.

The political instability risks delaying the release of a loan installment from the International Monetary Fund. The country’s next government will have to work out the terms of the IMF’s loan, central bank Governor Reza Baqir said.

Reflecting the political strife of the past month, the rupee is trading at a record low against the U.S. dollar. Data Thursday showed the nation’s foreign currency reserves dropped to $11.3 billion as of April 1, the lowest in about two years and enough to cover a couple months of imports.

The court order was handed down under heavy security cover — with riot police and paramilitary troops surrounding the court building — amid concerns that government and opposition party supporters could clash. Observers hailed the move as a victory for the rule of law in a nation where the military has been in charge for almost half of its history.

“It’s a bold but much welcome move by the Supreme Court, especially for constitutional supremacy,” said Marva Khan, an assistant professor at the law school of the Lahore University of Management Sciences. “Having a unanimous judgment on the matter further strengthens the value of this precedent.”

Khan’s ally and cabinet member Chaudhry Fawad Hussain called the ruling an “unfortunate decision” that “has further deepened the political crisis in Pakistan.” – Bloomberg

Also read: Why even Imran Khan couldn’t become the first PM of Pakistan to complete full term


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