LAHORE: PML-N senior vice president Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said the party will not consider moving a no-confidence motion against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government at the Centre or in Punjab till it is clear that the constitution is supreme in the country and the system is being run without “interference” as per democratic principles and norms.

“The PPP has stated several times that a no-confidence motion should be moved in Punjab. To test the waters, I ask them to table no-trust motion against Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani in the Senate where the opposition has a clear and demonstrated majority,” Mr Abbasi said while talking to Dawn on Tuesday.

Asked whether such a move was possible till the establishment’s alleged support to the government dwindled, the PML-N leader said: “So far, there have been no deliberations in the PML-N over a definite no-confidence move against the federal or Punjab government, but the option is always on the table. It is not possible to move a constitutional no-confidence motion in a system which is not running constitutionally,” he said. The way votes were managed in the recent joint sitting of parliament did not inspire confidence that any lessons had been learnt from “past mistakes”, he added.

To test the waters, PPP asked to table motion against Senate chairman

Since the issue of appointment of new Inter-Services Intelligence chief, there were rumours that Prime Minister Imran Khan and the establishment were no longer on the proverbial same page, generating a debate among the PML-N ranks that if it was the case they could consider a no-confidence motion against the Senate chairman where the opposition has a majority.

PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, who has been in London since November 2019 for his medical treatment, had engaged the main leadership of the opposition alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), to submit a ‘working plan’ about tabling no-trust motion against either Mr Sanjrani, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar or Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, but no consensus was reached on the proposal.

Former premier Abbasi said the opposition had already seen the way the situation was allegedly manoeuvered for the PTI government in the joint session of parliament last month (where it managed to bulldoze amendments to the Elections Act 2017). “So it is not the right time for any such move (no-confidence motion),” he added.

Mr Abbasi’s recent remarks about PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif being the party’s candidate for prime minister’s slot (in the next general elections) were construed in the political circles as a message having been conveyed to the military establishment that there is a consensus on the nomination.

“I had said this in the context that the party president usually is the candidate for prime minister’s slot. However, a final decision in this regard will be taken by the party leadership under its Quaid Nawaz Sharif at the time of the elections,” Mr Abbasi said, clarifying that his comment did not carry any kind of message for anyone.

In August 2019, PTI-backed Sanjrani pulled a shock victory and survived a motion of no- confidence pushed by the opposition despite a clear disadvantage in numbers. And the Senate chairman did it again in March defeating the PDM’s Yousuf Raza Gilani for the same slot despite weaker strength of the treasury than the opposition in the house.

Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2021

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