Pakistan’s National Assembly dissolved at PM Shehbaz Sharif’s advice

Islamabad: Pakistan’s parliament has formally been dissolved and efforts are on to appoint a caretaker prime minister to run the cash-strapped country till general elections are held later this year.

President Arif Alvi dissolved the National Assembly on Wednesday at outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharifโ€™s advice, marking an end to the current governmentโ€™s tenure three days ahead of its mandated period.

Sharif will continue to perform his duties as the premier until the appointment of a caretaker prime minister.

The notification for the dissolution of the assembly issued by the Presidential Palace said the National Assembly was dissolved under Article 58 of the Constitution.

According to Article 58, if the President fails to dissolve the assembly within 48 hours after the Prime Minister has recommended so, the assembly automatically stands dissolved.

“The Prime Minister’s advice at para 6 of the summary is approved,” President Alvi said in a statement.

“President Dr. Arif Alvi dissolved the National Assembly. The President dissolved the National Assembly on the advice of the Prime Minister under Article 58-1 of the Constitution,” his office posted on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Sharif and the Leader of the Opposition Raja Riaz now have three days as per the Constitution to finalise a name for the caretaker prime minister.

But if they fail to agree on a name, the matter would be referred to a committee formed by the NA Speaker that is supposed to finalise a name for the interim premier within 3 days.

However, if the committee is unable to make a decision within the stipulated period, the names of the nominees are forwarded to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The commission then has two days to make the final decision from the names proposed by the opposition and the government.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Sharif also said he would meet opposition leader Riaz to fulfil his constitutional obligation i.e. consultations regarding the appointment of an interim premier on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Riaz was of the view that consultations would take place at โ€œthe right timeโ€.

According to Riaz, he had completed the consultation process with his allies and three names for the interim prime minister were almost finalised.

The move to dissolve the NA came as former premier Imran Khan is fighting to overturn a corruption conviction.

Khan, 70, was sentenced to three years in prison by an Islamabad trial court on Saturday in the Toshakhana corruption case for unlawfully selling state gifts during his tenure as prime minister from 2018 to 2022. He was subsequently arrested by the Punjab police from his residence in Lahore.

Khan, who is currently lodged in the Attock Jail, appealed his conviction and the three-year prison sentence in the case by filing a plea through his lawyers at the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday.

The NA dissolution comes around a week after the government announced that assemblies would be dissolved on August 9, three days ahead of its mandated period, following which elections are to be held within 90 days.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Murtaza Javed Abbasi earlier said in a statement that โ€œthe elected government has completed its five-year termโ€, and his ministry had forwarded the summary for the dissolution of the assembly to the prime minister under Article 58 of the Constitution, the Dawn newspaper reported.

Earlier on Wednesday, the prime minister also chaired the final meeting of the federal Cabinet in Islamabad.

In his farewell address at the National Assembly on Wednesday, Sharif said: โ€œTonight, with the permission of the House, I will send the advice for the dissolution of the National Assembly to the president.โ€ Since the assembly has been dissolved before time, the ECP would hold elections within 90 days.

If the National Assembly had completed its constitutional term, the polls would have been held within 60 days, but in case of dissolution before time, the elections should be held within 90 days.

The polls are expected to be delayed for a couple of months as new census results have been approved, which makes it a constitutional obligation to carry out delimitation before elections.

The ECP is bound to carry out delimitation within 120 days and then announce the election schedule.

Though it is technically possible to expedite the process and determine delimitation of constituencies in minimum time and then go for elections within 90 days, it is not clear if the ECP would follow the deadline as it has a valid reason to overshoot the deadline.

The outgoing assembly was the 15th National Assembly which began its five-year journey on August 13, 2018, with the election of a speaker and deputy speaker. The assembly was elected after an election held on July 25, 2018.

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