Pakistan’s top court has ruled that a move to block a parliamentary vote against Prime Minister Imran Khan was unconstitutional, paving the way for his possible removal.
On Sunday, Mr Khan’s ruling party refused to hold a no-confidence vote which would have ousted him.
His government then dissolved parliament and called a snap election.
The political blindside outraged the opposition which immediately appealed the legality of the decision.
Mr Khan, meanwhile, claimed without evidence that the political opposition was in a conspiracy with the US to remove him because of his friendly relations with Russia and China. Washington has strongly denied his claim.
The deputy speaker of the parliament – a supporter of Mr Khan’s – had justified his decision to block the vote on the basis of “foreign interference”.
However, the Supreme Court on Thursday found that Mr Khan’s move to block the no-confidence vote on Sunday was unconstitutional and had no legal effect.
The court also ruled that Mr Khan’s decisions to dissolve parliament was invalid. Earlier, the country’s electoral commission said that holding a general election within 90 days would not be possible.
The Supreme Court has now ordered parliament to reconvene on Saturday to proceed with the vote, which is expected to go against Mr Khan.
If he is voted out, the opposition parties are expected to appoint a new prime minister and can hold power until August 2023, which is when a new election needs to be held.
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Mr Khan, a former star cricketer turned politician, swept into office in 2018 on a platform to tackle corruption and cronyism.
While he still has many supporters, he has lost some popular favour amid a rise in living costs and other scandals – and lost his parliamentary majority last week.
Analysts also say that Mr Khan may have lost support from the military, a crucial backer to any president.
The Supreme Court’s decision marks another chapter of political turmoil in Pakistan.
None of the nation’s prime ministers have ever served out a full term, due to various political scandals and power plays by the military in the past decades.
Several military coups and removals of democratically-elected leaders have seen a Pakistan that’s been directly ruled by the military for 33 of the 75 years it’s been an independent nation.