April 3 (UPI) — Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, moved to dissolve the country’s parliament after blocking a no-confidence vote that would have removed him from office.
Opposition lawmakers said they would challenge Khan’s effort to dissolve the National Assembly and hold new elections before the Supreme Court, which scheduled a hearing on the matter on Monday.
“Prepare for elections,” Khan said during a televised speech in which he repeated claims that efforts to remove him from office were part of a U.S.-backed conspiracy. “No corrupt forces will decide what the future of the country will be.”
The lawmakers said Khan’s move was “unprecedented” and a “blatant violation” of Pakistan’s Constitution, while his allies said the high court had no authority to interfere with the legislature.
Khan was expected to lose a no-confidence vote in Sunday’s assembly session after more than a dozen members of his own political party defected to join opposition lawmakers who accused him of mismanaging Pakistan’s economy and foreign policy.
However, Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri, a Khan ally, shut down the no-confidence vote, declaring it “unconstitutional” and asserting Khan was still the prime minister and maintained the power to dissolve the assembly.
Opposition lawmakers refused to leave the National Assembly building Sunday in an apparent effort to push the Supreme Court to act.
They have been rallying for Khan to be removed since he was elected in 2018 amid accusations of vote-rigging.
Khan called the lawmakers who pushed for the no-confidence vote “traitors” and called on his supporters to take to the streets in protest of the vote.