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Pakistan’s Supreme Court has dealt a devastating blow to Prime Minister Imran Khan, ruling that he had acted unconstitutionally in dissolving parliament ahead of a confidence vote he was supposed to lose, and ordered the vote to be place this weekend.

In the conclusion of a hearing that gripped Pakistan for the past four days, Pakistan’s Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said Khan broke the law in his attempt to stop the vote, which was widely supposed to overthrow him from power.

The verdict said Khan was wrong to ask the deputy speaker of the house, a close ally, to suspend the vote and was wrong to ask the president to dissolve parliament on Sunday morning.

The bench of five judges ordered a session of the National Assembly to be held on Saturday to allow for the vote of confidence. No member of parliament will be banned from voting.

Raza Rabbani, an opposition senator and lawyer, said: “This is a landmark and historical judgment that would help uphold the rule of law. This will have far-reaching impacts on Pakistan and the democratic setup because the speaker violated the constitution of Pakistan.

The vote was cast by the opposition coalition last month over what they said was Khan’s political and economic mismanagement. As he got closer there was a wave of defections among Khan’s supporters and it became apparent that he had lost his majority and was certain to lose.

But hours before Sunday’s vote, the deputy speaker of parliament rejected the motion due to allegations that it was the result of a “foreign plot” by the West to overthrow Khan. Khan then ordered the president to dissolve parliament and declared new elections in three months.

The move plunged the country into a constitutional crisis and sparked an outcry from the opposition, who called it an undemocratic move by a prime minister trying to retain power despite losing parliamentary support.

Khan, a former playboy cricketer turned conservative Islamist politician, was elected in 2018 on a promise to root out corruption and boost Pakistan’s economy.

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