Pakistan’s top court hopes to wrap up on Thursday a hearing on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s obstruction of an opposition bid to oust him, a maneuver his critics say was unconstitutional and has led to political turmoil in the nuclear-armed country.
Former cricket star Khan lost his parliamentary majority last week and was on the verge of being forced from office by a no-confidence vote tabled by the opposition on Sunday.
But the deputy speaker of parliament, a member of Khan’s party, threw out the motion, ruling it was part of a foreign conspiracy and unconstitutional. Khan then dissolved parliament.
The stand-off has thrown the country of 220 million people, ruled by the military for extended periods since independence in 1947, into a full-blown constitutional crisis, and sending its currency to all-time lows against the dollar on Thursday.
The opposition has challenged the decision to block the vote in the Supreme Court, which began deliberating the case on Monday.
“God willing we are concluding today,” Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said as the hearing reconvened for the fourth day on Thursday.
Khan’s supporters have argued that the opposition bid to oust him with foreign support was unconstitutional. Opposition leaders have rejected that.
The court could order parliament to be reconstituted, call for new elections or bar Khan from power if he is found to have violated the constitution.
It could also decide that it cannot intervene in parliamentary affairs.
The ongoing crisis is a worry for economic policymakers in Pakistan, that is in the middle of an International Monetary Fund bailout.
It also threatens relationships with long-time ally the United States, who Khan says is behind the conspiracy to overthrow him. Washington denies this.
The Pakistan rupee took a battering on Thursday as the country awaited the court’s judgment, hitting record lows.
Data from foreign exchange dealers and Refinitiv Eikon showed the rupee down as much as 1.5 percent in interbank trading, hitting 189 rupees to the US dollar - the largest move in over two years.
The depreciation in the open, or unofficial, markets was even higher, dealers said.
“As (the) dollar continues to soar, a massive economic meltdown is staring the country in the face,” Shehbaz Sherif, an opposition leader who is among the favorites to replace Khan as prime minister, said in a tweet on Thursday.
The military has stepped in to overthrow civilian governments and rule the country on three occasions citing the need to restore order. It has denied any involvement in the current crisis.
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