Political turmoil in Pakistan: What’s happening?

(BBC): Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan may lose power as early as Saturday.

A decision by the Supreme Court has dealt a blow to the embattled premier following a foiled attempt to oust him from office.

Opposition leaders tabled a no-confidence vote against Khan, which was scheduled last Sunday. But the vote was blocked by Khan’s own party.

Opposition figures reacted furiously, submitting a petition to the Supreme Court to decide whether the blocking of the no-confidence vote was even legal, to begin with.

Now the court has supported them.

How did we get here?
Imran Khan was elected in July 2018 on a platform of tackling corruption and fixing the economy.

While he remains popular amongst large parts of the population, support has gradually been eroded on account of skyrocketing inflation and ballooning foreign debt.

Some observers have pinned his political shakiness down to an increasingly fraught relationship between Khan and the powerful military, pointing to Khan’s refusal to sign off on the appointment of the new chief of one of Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agencies in October as a possible cause.

His political opponents seized on this perceived weakness, persuading a number of his coalition partners to defect towards them which tipped the majority in their favor and left Khan with a shrinking pool of allies.

A foiled no-confidence vote
On 3 April, opposition lawmakers put the no-confidence motion to the National Assembly in a bid to oust Khan from power, buoyed by hopes that they would have a majority of votes on their side.

But in a dramatic turn of events, National Assembly speaker Qasim Suri swiftly blocked the motion, saying there was a “clear nexus” with a foreign state to bring about a change of government.

In the days leading up to the vote, Khan had accused the opposition of colluding with foreign powers and said he was the target of a US-led conspiracy to remove him because of his refusal to stand with them on issues against Russia and China. The US has responded by saying there was “no truth” to these allegations.

But Suri ruled the no-confidence motion violated Article 5 of the country’s constitution, which calls for loyalty to the state and constitution.

Khan subsequently announced the dissolution of parliament, with snap elections to be held in the next 90 days.

Opposition figures reacted furiously to the decision, accusing the prime minister of “treason” for blocking the vote and pledging to submit a petition to the Supreme Court to decide if the government went beyond its constitutional power in blocking the vote.

What happens next?
The Supreme Court has ruled that the blocking of the vote was unconstitutional.

It has ordered the no-confidence vote to go ahead again on Saturday, 9 April. It could result in Khan’s removal as prime minister.

In that event, the Supreme Court said the Assembly would need to appoint a new prime minister.