Pakistan’s supreme court was expected to announce a verdict on the legality of prime minister Imran Khan calling for an early election after the opposition’s high-pitched battle to oust him reach the court.
But the apex court on Monday adjourned the session until noon Tuesday, without giving any immediate explanation for deferring the verdict.
Before the decision, chief justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial said that the court would issue a “reasonable order” on the legality of Mr Khan calling for a fresh election a day after a sudden twist during parliamentary proceedings.
On Sunday, the deputy speaker of parliament, a member of Mr Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party, blocked a no-confidence motion and dissolved the parliament, ruling it was part of a foreign conspiracy and unconstitutional.
The unexpected move which took several observers by surprise marked the latest escalation in a dispute as Mr Khan attempts to cling to power amid moves by opposition parties to oust him over allegations of economic mismanagement and bungled foreign policy.
Mr Khan was widely expected to be removed from power as the opposition gathered a majority in advance before the vote of no confidence that would have decided Mr Khan’s fate on Sunday.
The move to cancel the vote sparked anger among the opposition, who staged a protest and accused Mr Khan of “treason” and a “coup”.
Opposition politicians have now filed a petition to the Supreme Court to seek a decision on if the move to block the vote was within the constitutional rights.
The opposition leader and member of the Pakistan Muslim League, Shehbaz Sharif, called the blocking of the vote “nothing short of high treason”.
“The nation is stunned,” the English-language Dawn newspaper said in an editorial. “Even as political pundits and the media confidently predicted Mr Imran Khan’s defeat in the vote of no-confidence, he seemed unperturbed.”
Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari urged the Supreme Court to “stop Imran Khan’s coup” and address the “political crisis”.
“There is one legal way of removing the prime minister — the no-confidence motion. Imran Khan, just for the sake of his ego, sabotaged the no-trust process by violating the Constitution,” he said.
After president Arif Alvi dissolved the country’s national assembly on Sunday and said he would continue to remain prime minister till a caretaker premier is appointed, Mr Khan nominated former chief justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed as the caretaker.
The opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif was also asked to announce a nominee but refused to take part in the process and termed it “illegal”.
According to Pakistan’s constitution, the president appoints a caretaker prime minister in consultation with the incumbent prime minister and the leader of the opposition. In case, the leaders do not agree on a name within three days, the suggested names shall be forwarded to the committee formed by the Speaker of the National Assembly.
And if the committee fails to appoint a caretaker premier, the president would then take the final decision after consulting the election commission of Pakistan.
Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center, told Associated Press that the latest political wrangling as just another “part of a recurring pattern in Pakistan of governments undermining the democratic process to maintain their hold on power. “