MAULANA Fazlur Rehman
MAULANA Fazlur Rehman

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Demo­cratic Movement (PDM) president Maulana Fazlur Rehman has said that the next two to three days are “important” during which the joint opposition will make a final decision regarding submitting a vote of no-confidence motion against the government or requisitioning the session of parliament.

This was stated by the Maulana during an informal chat with a group of reporters at his residence here on Wednesday.

Claiming that opposition parties have the numbers required for the success of the no-confidence motion, he said they had been trying to get the support of more than 180 members in the 342-member lower house of parliament.

However, Maulana Fazl, who is also the head of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), said they had not yet decided whether they would bring the no-confidence motion against National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser or Prime Minister Imran Khan, adding consultations within the opposition parties as well as with the legal team were underway.

In order to make the no-confidence motion against the prime minister successful, the joint opposition requires the support of 172 MNAs. However, for the success of the vote of no-confidence motion against the speaker or the deputy speaker, a simple majority of the members is required. The voting on the motion against a speaker or deputy speaker is conducted through a secret ballot whereas an open vote by division is required for the similar motion against the prime minister.

The JUI-F chief said he was constantly in contact with the leaders of opposition parties, including former president Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif. He expressed the hope that he would be having a meeting with the two leaders in the next couple of days.

Next 48 hours

Interestingly, JUI-F leader and official spokesman for the PDM Hafiz Hamdullah issued a statement after the Maulana’s chat with reporters, in which he quoted the Maulana as saying that the opposition would submit the no-confidence motion in the next 48 hours.

Mr Hamdullah said Maulana Fazl had told the reporters that he was not in contact with the “establishment” and that he was not aware of any such contacts by PML-N or PPP. He said opposition parties had been unanimous that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government should be ousted. The Maulana said the opposition had not yet decided the strategy to deal with the situation after the removal of the government.

In an apparent reference to the military establishment, the Maulana said it seemed that the “umpires” were neutral. He declared that the opposition was not interested in seeking any support from the establishment, rather it wanted the establishment to stop supporting the government.

After announcing their decision to move the no-confidence motion, the opposition parties established contacts with the PTI allies and sought their cooperation. According to an insider, the opposition parties are wary of the fact that they cannot afford to see their no-confidence move failing at this crucial time when elections are merely 20 months away. There­fore, he said, the no-confidence motion against the prime minister would only be tabled when they were 100 per cent sure about its chances of success.

The insider said it was true that some disgruntled members of PTI were in contact with the opposition, but that was not sufficient to complete the numbers required for the no-confidence move to succeed and they would definitely be requiring the support of all or some of the PTI allies, including the PML-Q, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA). Moreover, he said, it would not be possible for the PTI members to support the no-confidence motion as there would be an open vote and they could face defection under Article 63-A of the constitution.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, it may be recalled, rushed to Lahore on Tuesday to meet the Chaudhrys of PML-Q to be ensured that they still supported him and his government in these tough times. The PM inquired after an ailing Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who not only reportedly assured Mr Khan of their “unflinching support” to the government, but also expressed their lack of trust in the “Sharifs, who ditched us in the past. We know them all, and do not trust them”.

Parliament session

According to sources, the opposition parties are seriously considering convening the session of the National Assembly or the joint session of parliament to grill the government on the recently-promulgated two controversial ordinances, including the one amending the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca) 2016.

Besides the opposition parties, the journalists and media bodies, lawyers’ associations and civil society members have rejected the Peca ordinance terming it an attempt to put more curbs on media freedom.

After talking to the representatives of media and journalists’ bodies in Lahore on Monday, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif had stated that his party would table a resolution in a joint session of parliament to demand the controversial amendment be repealed.

“We are going to requisition a joint parliament session [of parliament] seeking repeal of Peca amendment ordinance,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2022

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