Pakistan PM Imran Khan paying the price for being 'disobedient' to Washington, says Russia

"This is another attempt of shameless interference by the US in the internal affairs of an independent state for its own selfish purposes. The above facts eloquently testify to this," Zakharova said.
foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova (File | AP)
foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova (File | AP)

MOSCOW/ISLAMABAD: Russia has criticised the US for making "another attempt of shameless interference" into the internal affairs of Pakistan and asserted that Prime Minister Imran Khan was paying the price for being "disobedient" to Washington and being punished for visiting Russia in February this year.

Khan met Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on February 24, the day the Russian leader had ordered a "special military operation" against Ukraine.

In doing so, he had also become the first Pakistani premier to visit Russia in 23 years after former premier Nawaz Sharif travelled to Moscow in 1999.

On Monday, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said despite pressure from the US to cancel his visit to Moscow, Khan went ahead with his trip.

"Immediately after the announcement of the working visit of Imran Khan to Moscow on February 23-24 this year, the Americans and their Western associates began to exert rude pressure on the Prime Minister, demanding an ultimatum to cancel the trip," Zakharova said in a commentary on the controversy over Khan's allegation that the US was trying to effect a regime change in Islamabad.

"This is another attempt of shameless interference by the US in the internal affairs of an independent state for its own selfish purposes. The above facts eloquently testify to this," Zakharova said.

The US-led West has imposed a series of crippling sanctions on Russia since it invaded Ukraine and has been pressing other nations to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and other products.

The senior Russian diplomat said that the sequence of events left no doubt that Washington had "decided to punish a disobedient Imran Khan", which also explained why a number of members from Khan's ruling coalition decided to switch sides and shift their allegiances ahead of the April 3 no-trust vote.

Khan, 69, stunned the Opposition on Sunday by recommending snap elections within three months, minutes after a no-confidence motion against him was dismissed by the deputy speaker of the National Assembly.

Khan then got Pakistan President Arif Alvi to dissolve the 342-member National Assembly.

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Monday adjourned the hearing on the deputy speaker's decision to reject the no-confidence motion against the premier, who had lost majority in the lower house of Parliament.

Khan had named senior US diplomat Donald Lu as the person who was allegedly involved in the "foreign conspiracy" to oust his government through a no-confidence vote tabled by the Opposition.

Pakistan's Opposition leaders have ridiculed Khan's allegation, and the US has dismissed these claims.

Zakharova said Moscow was keenly watching the events unfolding in Islamabad over the last three days as well as the events preceding it.

In her commentary, she exuded hope that the Pakistani voters would be well-informed about these circumstances when they come to vote in the elections that are scheduled to be held 90 days after the dissolution of the National Assembly.

Pakistan's Supreme Court on Tuesday sought the record of the proceedings of the National Assembly conducted on the no-confidence motion filed against Prime Minister Imran Khan as it resumed hearing on the legality of the ruling by the deputy speaker blocking the no-trust vote.

The apex court had taken a suo motu cognizance of the current political situation in the country.

A five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial issued the directives, with he top judge saying that the court only wanted to ascertain the constitutionality of the steps taken by the deputy speaker for the dismissal of the no-confidence of motion and subsequent dissolution of the National Assembly.

"Our sole focus is on the ruling of the deputy speaker…it is our priority to decide on that particular issue," Chief Justice Bandial was quoted as saying by the Express Tribune newspaper.

The apex court wanted to see if the ruling of the deputy speaker could be reviewed by the bench, he said, adding that the court will merely decide on the legitimacy of the speaker's action.

"We will ask all parties to focus on this point," he added.

As the hearing resumed, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Raza Rabbani and senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan presented their arguments before the court.

Rabbani said that the court had to examine the extent of the "immunity" of parliamentary proceedings.

"Whatever has happened can only be termed as civilian martial law," he said.

He maintained that the speaker's ruling was "illegal", Dawn news reported.

"The no-confidence motion can't be dismissed without voting on it," he said, citing Article 95 of the Constitution.

Rabbani also said that a deliberate attempt was made to construct a narrative against the no-trust move while a foreign conspiracy was also touted.

PML-N's counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan said that the no-confidence motion was submitted to the NA with the signatures of 152 lawmakers while 161 had voted in favour of tabling it.

"After that, proceedings were adjourned till March 31."

As per the rules, the counsel pointed out, a debate on the no-trust move was supposed to be conducted on March 31.

"But a debate was not held," he said, adding that voting was also not conducted on April 3.

If Khan gets a favourable ruling, elections will take place within 90 days.

If the court rules against the deputy speaker, the parliament will reconvene and hold the no-confidence vote against Khan, experts said.

President Arif Alvi had dissolved the National Assembly (NA) on the advice of Prime Minister Khan, minutes after Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri rejected a no-confidence motion against the premier, who had effectively lost the majority in the 342-member lower house of Parliament on Sunday.

Chief Justice Bandial had said that all orders and actions initiated by the prime minister and the president regarding the dissolution of the National Assembly will be subject to the court's order.

On Monday, the larger bench of the apex court - comprising Chief Justice Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail - took up the matter after Deputy Speaker Suri rejected the move to dislodge the prime minister by declaring the no-trust motion unmaintainable due to its link with a so-called foreign conspiracy.

President Alvi, the Supreme Court Bar Association and all political parties have been made respondents in the case.

Lawyers from the government and opposition presented their argument regarding the ruling by the deputy speaker.

Chief Justice Bandial had earlier Monday said the court would issue a "reasonable order" on the issue on Monday.

During the hearing on Monday, Chief Justice Bandial said that even if the Speaker of the National Assembly cites Article 5 of the Constitution, the no-confidence motion cannot be rejected, Geo News reported.

During the proceedings, Justice Ahsan noted that there were violations in the proceedings of the no-trust resolution, Dawn reported.

Justice Bandial observed that a debate before voting on the no-confidence motion had been clearly mentioned in the law but didn't take place.

Justice Akhtar expressed dubiousness over the deputy speaker's constitutional authority to pass such a ruling, the paper said.

"In my opinion," he said, "only the speaker had the right to pass the ruling."

"The deputy speaker chairs the session on the non-availability of the speaker."

Justice Bandial also observed that the deputy speaker's ruling mentioned the meeting of the parliamentary committee for security.

"The opposition deliberately didn't attend the meeting," he said.

Farooq H Naek, who was representing the joint opposition, pleaded with the court to issue a verdict on the matter on Monday.

But Justice Ahsan said it was impossible to pass the verdict on Monday, adding that the apex court's decision will have far reaching outcomes.

"We can't pass a decision in the air," Justice Bandial said, adjourning the hearing till Tuesday. He had also rejected the opposition's plea for a full bench.

The decision of the court would also determine the legality of the presidential order to dissolve the National Assembly.

However, opposition parties rejected both the ruling of deputy speaker and dissolution of the parliament, and not only challenged it in the court but also fought tooth and nail outside the Supreme Court.

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