Explainer: What is Article 5 and does it apply to the no-trust move?

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At the start of the National Assembly session today, when the lower house was to vote on the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan, Law Minister Fawad Chaudhry read out Article 5 of the constitution and accused the Opposition of disloyalty to the state.

Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri then quickly disallowed voting on the no-trust motion and adjourned the session indefinitely. Later, the prime minister also announced that he has advised the president to dissolve the national assembly and hold fresh polls.

Chaudhry has called this move the “surprise” the government was waiting to deliver and added that the opposition can challenge it in court.

What does Article 5 state?

Article 5 of the constitution of Pakistan reads:

Loyalty to State and obedience to Constitution and law.

(1) Loyalty to the State is the basic duty of every citizen.

(2) Obedience to the Constitution and law is the 10[inviolable] 10 obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan.

Dissolve assembly, invoke Article 5: Is it even legal?

Legal expert Saroop Ijaz told Geo.tv that prima facie it seems that this move is in violation of the constitution and also of democratic norms.

“When a [not trust] motion has been tabled and when the attorney general has told the court that voting will go through, then this [move] seems to be a disregard of constitutional provisions,” he said.

Ijaz added that at the moment the only arbitrator is the Supreme Court.

“The courts can intervene if an action within the house is with mala fide intent and without jurisdiction,” he added, “If the court decides that this is indeed mala fide, then in that case the prime minister’s advise to dissolve the national assembly will be declare null and void because the entire premise is that he is a prime minister against whom there is a vote of no confidence.”

The lawyer further said if the court decides against the speaker’s move then the resolution of no confidence will be taken up again for voting.

“In my opinion, the courts can intervene and have said it multiple times themselves as well,” he told Geo.tv. “While courts are reluctant to intervene in internal proceedings of the house, this does not give the speaker blanket immunity to disregard the constitution.”

Legal expert and talk show host Muneeb Farooq called the move by the prime minister to dissolve the assembly as “complete unconstitutional”.

Legal expert Reema Omer tweeted that there are no “ifs and buts” and the “speaker’s ruling is blatantly unconstitutional”.

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