LAHORE: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz on Saturday asked Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to show (the required) numbers before considering the move to oust Prime Minister Imran Khan through a no-confidence motion in the National Assembly.
“Tabling a no-confidence motion (against PM Khan in the NA) is an old suggestion of the PPP. However, if Bilawal Bhutto thinks he has (the required) numbers in this regard, he should show them,” said PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal while addressing a press conference.
The PPP chairman had on Friday said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government could be sent packing through constitutional, democratic and legal options such as through a no-confidence motion. All member parties of the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) would be convinced to use this option and reach a consensus on the issue, he said, explaining that a no-confidence resolution could be tabled in the National Assembly against the ‘selected’ prime minister and the NA speaker.
PPP says fissures in the ruling coalition will become more pronounced at the time of Senate elections
However, the PML-N is of the opinion that after having the ‘bad’ experience of failing to oust Senate chairman Sadiq Sanjrani, this proposal might not be viable.
Mr Iqbal told the media that proposals were discussed in the meetings of opposition alliance but decisions were made with consensus. “As far as the PML-N is concerned, we think that we had the required numbers in the Senate (against chairman Sanjrani) but the move couldn’t succeed. We witnessed in the Senate where the opposition had the majority numbers but no-confidence motion did not succeed.
“Therefore, the only option now left with the opposition is to go for the [planned] long march on Islamabad and the month of March is suitable for it,” the PML-N leader said.
Earlier in August 2019 the opposition despite having the majority 67 seats out of the 103 in the Senate could not pass the no-confidence motion against chairman Sanjrani, as at least 14 of their members defected.
Mr Iqbal said the PML-N was also not in favour of in-house change proposed by another party in the PDM. “In-house change can be a proposal of any other opposition party, but we are not in favour of it as it is not a viable option. For this, horse-trading will have to be done and we are not in favour of it. In the Senate chairman (Sanjrani) election, we witnessed how 64 votes of the opposition were reduced to 52. This game will have to be played again for in-house change,” he said.
At the PDM meeting in Lahore early this month the PPP had proposed an in-house change but no consensus had been reached.
A PML-N insider told Dawn that his party was reluctant to favour the no-confidence move as long as the establishment was fully backing Mr Khan. “In fact the PDM’s struggle is all about pressurising the institutions, especially the establishment, to stop backing the PTI. Once the establishment hints at distancing itself from the PTI government, it will be very easy for the opposition to get rid of PM Khan within days,” he said.
Secretary general of PPP’s Punjab chapter Chaudhry Manzoor said his party’s chairman had proposed bringing a no-confidence resolution against the PTI government as he knew well that more pressure would be brought to bear on the government in the coming days.
“There is turmoil in the PTI ranks as many of its members are not happy over the government’s performance on every front. Its allies — the MQM, PML-Q and BAP — are not happy with the government either,” he said.
“Let the Senate elections come and the fissures among the government’s allies will be more visible. The MQM cannot afford to face the public in Karachi, especially over the issue of census… Similarly, the PMLQ and BAP have issues on Senate seats’ adjustment,” he said.
The senior PPP leader further said that former president Asif Ali Zardari had already declared that the PTI-led government would fall under its own weight.
Asked if the PDM or the PPP was hoping to introduce a no-confidence motion in the national legislature once the military establishment stopped supporting PM Khan, Mr Manzoor said: “We are continuously building pressure on the government through protest rallies and long march on Islamabad is also in sight. We are exposing it at every forum and on top of that the people want to get rid of this inept government as early as possible. They are supporting the PDM’s struggle in this regard.”
Meanwhile, talking to reporters here on Saturday, PML-N’s Punjab president Rana Sanaullah said the no-confidence motion could be tabled if the PML-Q and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement distanced themselves from the PTI-led coalition government.
About the Broadsheet probe, Mr Iqbal said the government had formed the Broadsheet inquiry committee under controversial retired justice Azmat Saeed only to “cover up its failures on every front”.
“How Mr Saeed can head this committee as he was part of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) when this contract was signed with the Broadsheet and he is also a board member of the Shaukat Khanum Hospital. Imran Khan has appointed him only because the latter considers him a family member and covers up his (Mr Khan’s) inefficiency. Mr Saeed should detach himself from it for his own respect,” he said.
The PML-N leader said that for the past two and a half years, there had been a ‘civil martial law’ in Pakistan.
He also demanded Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar resign from his post after the United Nations (UN) directed its employees not to travel by PIA. “One incident after another… this bunch of incompetent selected government is bringing ignominy to the country. This government has not only weakened Pakistan from inside but also left no respect in the outside world,” he regretted, and questioned those who “imposed the PTI on the nation what harm it (nation) caused to you”.
Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2021