The fate of Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, hangs in the balance.
A decision by the Supreme Court – scheduled for Tuesday – will decide what will happen to the embattled premier following an attempt to oust him from office.
Opposition leaders tabled a no-confidence vote against Mr Khan, which was scheduled for Sunday. But the vote was blocked by Mr Khan’s own party.
Opposition figures reacted furiously, submitting a petition to the Supreme Court to decide whether the blocking of the no-confidence vote was even legal to begin with.
The debacle has riled up the country, prompting many to question how the government managed to get to this point, and what will happen next.
How did we get here?
Imran Khan was elected in July 2018 on a platform of tackling corruption and fixing the economy.
While he remains popular amongst large parts of the population, support has gradually been eroded on account of skyrocketing inflation and a ballooning foreign debt.
Some observers have pinned his political shakiness down to an increasingly fraught relationship between Mr Khan and the powerful military, pointing to Mr Khan’s refusal to sign off on the appointment of the new chief of one of Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agencies in October as a possible cause.
His political opponents seized on this perceived weakness, persuading a number of his coalition partners to defect towards them which tipped the majority in their favour and leaving Mr Khan with a shrinking pool of allies.
A foiled no-confidence vote
On 3 April, opposition lawmakers put the no-confidence motion to the National Assembly in a bid to oust Mr Khan from power, buoyed by hopes that they would have a majority of votes on their side.
But in a dramatic turn of events, National Assembly speaker Qasim Suri swiftly blocked the motion, saying there was a “clear nexus” with a foreign state to bring about a change of government.
In the days leading up to the vote, Mr Khan had accused the opposition of colluding with foreign powers, and said he was the target of a US-led conspiracy to remove him because of his refusal to stand with them on issues against Russia and China. The US has responded by saying there was “no truth” to these allegations.
But Mr Suri ruled the no-confidence motion violated Article 5 of the country’s constitution, which calls for loyalty to the state and constitution.
Mr Khan subsequently announced the dissolution of parliament, with snap elections to be held in the next 90 days.
Opposition figures reacted furiously to the decision, accusing the prime minister of “treason” for blocking the vote and pledging to submit a petition to the Supreme Court to decide if the government went beyond its constitutional power in blocking the vote.
What can we expect will happen?
The Supreme Court’s decision could potentially go one of two ways.
If the Supreme Court decides that the blocking of the vote was unconstitutional, it could then order the no-confidence vote to go ahead again.
If it takes place, it would result in Mr Khan’s removal as prime minister.
However, if the court reasons that the decision by the speaker was sound and that the court cannot interfere in parliamentary matters, that still remains a fragile victory for Mr Khan.
He will then have to form an interim government which will make sure elections occur in the next 90 days, and there is no guarantee that he will emerge victorious at the end.