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Pakistan court rules president's move to dissolve parliament is unconstitutional

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Since last week, Pakistan has been in political limbo. It began when the prime minister moved to dissolve Parliament instead of facing a vote of no confidence. But now the country's Supreme Court says that move was unconstitutional. NPR's Diaa Hadid reports from Islamabad.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: The decision by the chief justice was conveyed over a loudspeaker in a courtroom assigned to media.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: It is declared that the order of the president dissolving the assembly was contrary to the Constitution, and it is hereby set aside.

HADID: Opposition workers burst into chants of go, Niazi, go. That's the nickname of the prime minister, Imran Khan.

UNIDENTIFIED OPPOSITION WORKERS: (Chanting) Go, Niazi, go, Niazi.

(CROSSTALK)

HADID: Senator Sherry Rehman is from the opposition PPP party.

SHERRY REHMAN: It is a victory for democracy and for the Constitution, which has been battered many times in Pakistan.

HADID: It's been a hurly-burly week in Pakistan. The prime minister forestalled an attempt to remove him from power on Sunday by moving to dissolve Parliament. His allies claim they were thwarting an American plot to overthrow him with the help of opposition legislators. Both deny those claims.

The Supreme Court intervened and today found the move to dissolve Parliament was unconstitutional. It means Pakistan rewinds basically to last Sunday morning. Imran Khan will still face a no-confidence motion that he's likely to lose.

So why not just go to elections? This goes back to Pakistan's most powerful institution - the military. Opposition parties accuse the army of helping bring Khan to power. The army denies those claims. Rehman, the PPP senator, says they need these few months in power to push through electoral reforms.

REHMAN: To ensure that there is a level playing field and that the next general election is not controversial to the point this one was.

HADID: Reforms or not, though, Pakistan's bitter political polarization is unlikely to fade through the ballot box. But for now, it seems, one crisis has ended.

Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Islamabad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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