In a show of strength, Prime Minister Imran Khan secured 178 votes – six more than required – on Saturday to win the vote of confidence from the National Assembly.
The special session was called after the premier voluntarily sought a trust vote following an upset in Senate elections. Addressing the assembly after his win in a wide-ranging speech, the premier said "no one can stop Pakistan's progress".
He also announced electoral reforms, saying: "We are doing things; we are fully engaged with overseas Pakistanis so they can cast votes, and secondly, we are bringing electronic machines."
"We are bringing this system so that the one who loses, accepts defeat."
The premier needed 172 votes to win the confidence vote. Announcing the result, NA Speaker Asad Qaiser said Prime Minister Imran had been elected to the post with 176 votes three years ago. “Today, he has secured 178 votes,” he said.
According to the breakdown, 155 PTI lawmakers voted in favour of the premier.
Besides, seven lawmakers from the MQM-P, five each from the Balochistan Awami Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, three from Grand Democratic Alliance and one each from the Awami Muslim League and the Jamhoori Watan Party cast their votes supporting the prime minister.
Independent candidate Aslam Bhotani also reposed confidence in the premier through his vote.
'I thank you'
Addressing the House after securing the trust vote, PM Imran thanked government lawmakers, including his allies, for staying by his side through thick and thin.
He commended the way his party reacted after the Islamabad Senate seat upset, saying that this experience had made them tougher.
"To my parliamentarians and team, I thank you. Yesterday evening when I saw you, I realised that you were really hurt when we lost the Senate election of Hafeez Shaikh.
"But when I saw you, I felt very good because I saw a team in you and our team will get stronger. Because God will test your faith again and again," the prime minister said.
The premier said he knew of many individual MNAs who tried hard to attend the vote today but could not make it as some were facing health issues. "I thank all of you," he said.
The premier said the government knew that money was being collected in the run up to the Senate elections for the buying and selling of candidates, yet the ECP said a "great election" was carried out.
"I was more saddened by this, if this election was carried out well by you [ECP] then who knows what is a bad election," said the prime minister.
He said that he was "surprised" that the ECP had said it was a free institution in its press release when he [the premier] hadn't said anything about their independence in his address to the nation after the Senate election.
"I request the ECP to get a briefing from our [intelligence] agencies on what goes on behind the scenes in elections," Imran said, referring to the buying and selling that takes place behind the scenes.
PM Imran said it was embarrassing the way elections were held in Pakistan. He named PPP co-chair Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, saying they were "thieves" who were blackmailing his government for an NRO.
He said Zardari was commonly referred to in phrases such as "one Zardari trumps all (aik Zardari sab pe bhaari)" and "Mr 10 per cent" because of his corrupt practices.
The PM further said that Sharif had faked sickness to go abroad so that he could avoid the legal consequences of his corruption and theft.
"These people even tried to sabotage FATF legislation and had linked passing of the FATF legislation to amendments in the NAB law," the PM said, adding that they had put the country at stake to get rid of corruption cases against them.
He criticised Yusuf Raza Gilani, who beat PTI's Hafeez Shaikh in the recent Senate polls, as one of the most corrupt politicians in the country.
"Just look at his [Gilani's] wealth and assets before he became the PM and do a comparison with his assets after he became the PM. The picture will be clear," Imran said.
He said future generations of the country can only be saved if the menace of corruption is removed.
"We are on a way to economic recovery. The current account is improving constantly and now even the rupee is strengthening against the dollar without government intervention," he said.
The PM said the biggest pressure he was facing was to tackle the issue of inflation, which he said was a natural result of the rupee devaluing.
"But my team and my government is doing everything it can to control this issue and we will keep working," he said.
Lawmakers congratulate PM
Immediately after announcing the result, the speaker gave the floor to Amir Liaquat, who recited poetry as an ode to Imran Khan. After him, MQM's Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui took the floor and congratulated the premier on his success.
"You got the confidence [of the House], now it is your turn to return that confidence to the nation," Siddiqui said, asking the premier to fulfill his promises to his party and the country.
Following Siddiqui, Fehmida Mirza spoke, saying that the government's allies would always stand with the premier whenever there was a threat to the continuity of democracy despite any grievances they might have.
Mirza then went on to criticise the way in which the recently concluded Senate elections were held, questioning whether the Election Commission of Pakistan was able to guard the process against "corrupt practices".
Earlier, lawmakers, including PM Imran, arrived at the Parliament House while PTI supporters and PML-N leaders gathered outside.
Tensions were high as both sides became confrontational and PML-N leaders alleged they had been manhandled.
Before the session began, Punjab CM Usman Buzdar, Balochistan CM Jam Kamal, Senate Chairperson Sadiq Sanjrani and other officials met in NA Speaker Asad Qaiser's chamber, where they discussed the vote of confidence.
According to the participants of the meeting, the prime minister has "set a unique trend". The chief ministers, senators and other high-ranking officials watched the session from the galleries.
The session started at 12:15pm with recitation from the Holy Quran and a naat without the opposition in attendance. Later, the national anthem was played in the House at which all lawmakers stood up in respect.
Following this, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi tabled the resolution on which voting will be held and the NA speaker read out rules on how the voting will be conducted. Later, bells were sounded inside the House so that all lawmakers outside the premises could make their way inside after which the doors were sealed.
The resolution, which was read out by the speaker again, says: “That this House reposes confidence in the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Mr Imran Khan, as required under clause (7) of Article 91 of the Constitution Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”
After reading out the resolution, the speaker directed the legislators who wanted to caste their votes to make their way to another chamber inside the House, where NA staff recorded their votes.
Show of strength
PM Imran had announced earlier this week that he would seek a vote of confidence from his party's lawmakers, following an upset in the Senate election on March 3. While the ruling PTI made gains, it experienced a shocking upset on the Islamabad seat where PPP's Yousuf Raza Gilani bagged 169 votes, defeating the government's nominee, Hafeez Shaikh, who received 164 votes, meaning that several ruling alliance MNAs had voted for the Pakistan Democratic Movement candidate.
This is the first time a prime minister has undertaken such an exercise after the passage of the 18th Amendment.
Prior to this, the law required every prime minister to take a vote of confidence from the Assembly within 30 days of being elected — a vote that Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and other prime ministers of the past had to seek after their election.
Since 2010, however, the law does not require such a practice. In fact, according to clause 7 of Article 91 of the Constitution, the president “shall not exercise his powers under this clause unless he is satisfied that the prime minister does not command the confidence of the majority” in the Assembly.
Scuffle outside NA
Meanwhile, dozens of PTI supporters have gathered outside the Parliament Lodges, holding up banners and chanting slogans in support of PM Imran.
PML-N leaders, including ex-premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Ahsan Iqbal, Musaddiq Malik, Marriyum Aurangzeb and Khurram Dastagir, also arrived outside the lodges and held a press conference to criticise the premier's move for a trust vote.
Abbasi said the PM did not have the power to go for a trust vote according to the Constitution, adding that this power rested with the president only if he believed the premier had lost confidence of the legislature.
After the presser, however, the PML-N leaders alleged they were harassed and manhandled by PTI supporters present at the site, adding that there was no police or security for their protection.
A fuming Abbasi said such behaviour was reflective of the PTI's tactics and challenged them to a face off on the road "in front of the cameras".
However, the PM's focal person on digital media, Arslan Khalid, claimed that the PML-N leaders began the scuffle by attacking PTI supporters around them, adding that the media was "misreporting the facts".
Allies assure support
Yesterday, during a meeting of parliamentary parties at the Prime Minister House, 175 out of 179 government lawmakers gave assurance to the prime minister that they will give him the vote of confidence. All MNAs of the ruling alliance were asked to vote for the prime minister otherwise they can be de-seated.
Those who could not attend the meeting were Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi, Amir Liaquat Hussain, Ghulam Bibi Bharwana, Basit Sultan and Monis Elahi.
A PTI leader said all those who were absent would attend the NA session today. He said Zaidi was stuck up in Lahore and Amir Liaquat who was in Karachi assured that he would be present in the house today.
After resignation of Faisal Vawda and re-elections on a seat NA-75 in Daska, the government has 179 seats in the NA and the PM has to get at least 172 votes to prove confidence of the 341-member House.
The 10-party alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) yesterday announced that the opposition will boycott the session. PDM chief Fazlur Rehman called it a futile exercise by the premier for face-saving after the lower house of parliament already rejected him as the premier in the recent Senate elections.
Rehman said that "this session will have no political importance" and the PTI government "will not be considered the representative government of this nation".
PTI lawmakers express support for PM
Ahead of the NA session, PTI leaders and lawmakers posted tweets, expressing support for the premier. Planning Minister Asad Umar declared that his "vote of confidence goes to my skipper".
"I am confident that @ImranKhanPTI will never betray the trust of the people, he will never cease to struggle for betterment of Pakistan, he will lead Pakistan to the glory it's destined for by Allah's blessing," Umar tweeted.
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari said PM Imran was the only hope "amidst the coterie of convicts, brigands, looters and money launderers who have robbed this nation ad nauseam".
"Amidst the coterie of convicts, brigands, looters & money launderers who have robbed this nation ad nauseam, Imran Khan is the only hope of ending theft of nation's wealth & elite capture of nation's resources. My vote of confidence rests solidly with #PrimeMinisterImranKhan.
National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri pledged to support the premier "till his last breath".
"No thief or robber can lower my resolve. Power comes and goes; we all stand with Imran Khan in the fight to rid Pakistan of corruption," Suri tweeted.