No-confidence tension

Published March 4, 2022

JUI-F CHIEF Maulana Fazlur Rehman has claimed that the next 48 hours are important and that a vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan is on the verge of being tabled. Other opposition leaders are claiming that they have the numbers needed to de-seat the prime minister and bring about a constitutional regime change.

These leaders are also hinting that the motion for no-confidence will be filed in the National Assembly very shortly. The government continues to put up a brave face saying its majority is intact because the allies are holding firm. The coming week is expected to be a very crucial one.

An important factor in this evolving situation is the prospects of PTI members breaking rank and voting against their leader. For the government, this is an unthinkable outcome but the opposition continues to say that a fair number of PTI legislators are ready to cross over in return for some guarantees that includes the award of PML-N tickets for the next general elections. If these PTI MNAs do jump ship, they could tilt the vote in favour of the opposition.

However, they would also then trigger the disqualification clause because of floor crossing. This eventuality has been a topic of discussion for many weeks and the optimists within the opposition maintain that they have been able to provide some answers to these legislators. One argument they are peddling is that the process of disqualification can be a long-drawn-out affair. The speaker of the National Assembly has to issue a notice and that process — which entails plenty of correspondence back and forth — then moves to the Election Commission. There too the process could drag on.

Read: That magic number

In the same vein, opposition leaders are also hinting that they might file a no-confidence motion against National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar. If they manage to succeed and replace him with someone from their ranks, then the disqualification process can become even lengthier. These arguments are being given to incentivise PTI members to jump ship. The scorecard however remains uncertain at this point.

What is also uncertain is the scenario if the no-confidence vote succeeds. The PML-N leadership has been insistent that fresh elections should be called as soon as possible. The PPP on the other hand favours the new government continuing till the scheduled elections late next year. There is no clarity whether the two sides have been able to narrow their differences and agreed to a final decision.

This also means that those being asked to cross sides — allies as well as PTI members — remain uncertain of what they would gain were they to switch sides. The PML-Q would ideally want the chief ministership of Punjab for Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi but that would mean little if fresh elections are called within a few months. The situation remains tense.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2022

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