ISLAMABAD: After holding consultations and marathon sessions for weeks, a confident-looking opposition on Tuesday finally accepted the government’s challenge and submitted a no-confidence resolution against Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Hours after an opposition delegation submitted their resolution to the National Assembly Secretariat, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Asif Zardari and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman addressed a crowded and hurriedly-called news conference at a local hotel to make a formal announcement.
During the presser, the opposition leaders presented a charge-sheet against the prime minister and claimed that they had the support of more than the required number of assembly members to make their no-confidence move a success.
Besides submitting the resolution under Article 95 of the Constitution, the opposition members also submitted a requisition notice for convening the National Assembly under Article 54(3) of the Constitution on a one-point agenda i.e. to take up the resolution.
PDM, PPP alliance claims to have sufficient numbers; minister says opposition can’t maintain them for long
Under the Constitution, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser is now bound to convene the assembly session within 14 days after submission of the requisition notice, which means he will have to call the sitting by March 22, the day when Islamabad will be hosting a two-day meeting of the foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) for which the assembly hall is presently being renovated.
Thus, the opposition’s timing in submitting the two notices has virtually put the government in a fix and the prime minister has already started consultations with his legal team on the matter.
After tabling the resolution through a motion before the 342-member lower house of the parliament, the speaker will be required to put it for a vote no sooner than three days and not later than seven days. Under the Constitution, 68 members (20 per cent of the total members) of the National Assembly can submit a no-confidence resolution against the prime minister, whereas a minimum of one-fourth (86 members) of the members are required to requisition the assembly session. The opposition is presently 10 votes short of the magical number of 172 required for the passage of the resolution in the National Assembly.
After submission of a no-confidence resolution, the prime minister cannot dissolve the National Assembly.
Explainer: How does a no-confidence motion work?
An opposition leader commented that now the only option available to Mr Khan was to resign from the office, if he wanted to save himself from further humiliation.
According to PML-N’s Marriyum Aurangzeb, a total of 102 members had signed the requisition notice whereas the resolution carried 152 signatures.
While seeking a voluntary trust vote last March following an upset in the Senate elections, PM Khan had secured 178 votes, six more than required to win a vote of confidence from the National Assembly.
In a significant development, PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, whose party is a coalition partner with the PTI at the Centre and Punjab, also met Maulana Fazlur Rehman at the latter’s residence on Tuesday. The visit of the PML-Q chief, despite his poor health, is being viewed as quite significant, according to political experts, as both the opposition and the prime minister had already approached his party to seek its support over the no-confidence resolution.
Since the announcement of the no-confidence plan by the opposition, a number of government ministers have been challenging the opposition to bring the resolution, if it has the required numbers.
NA Speaker Asad Qaiser, who arrived at Parliament House after opposition members had already left, told reporters that he would look into the notice and the resolution submitted by the opposition, adding: “Everything will be done according to the law”.
“It is their (opposition’s) legal right. If it is according to the rules, to the law, to the Constitution, it will be treated as such,” he declared.
When asked whether the PTI lawmakers were united, he reportedly said: “PTI parliamentarians stand with the party. Differences develop sometimes [...] It is good that it (no-trust move) happened so that doodh ka doodh, pani ka pani ho jaye (matters become clear).” He claimed that all allies were standing with the government.
Separately, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed claimed that voting on the no confidence resolution would take place after the OIC meeting and could be delayed until March 29. Speaking on a private TV channel, he explained that the speaker could convene the session by March 22, after which they would have seven days for voting.
He said that on the first sitting, the assembly might not take up any agenda item as per parliamentary tradition as it would be the first sitting of the assembly after the death of PTI MNA Khayal Zaman.
The minister was confident that the opposition no confidence would fail and Imran Khan would emerge victorious, saying that it would be difficult for the opposition to keep their members intact over the next 24 days.
In response to a question, Sheikh Rashid said that he had complete trust in “Pindi walas” and they were with Imran Khan.
Shehbaz Sharif disclosed that the decision to move the no-confidence resolution against the prime minister had been made by them during their meeting on Monday, but they had decided to keep it a secret.
Mr Sharif said the non-confidence against Imran Khan was a public demand and the joint opposition was only acting on the decision of the people.
He also lambasted the government over alleged political victimisation of the opponents in the name of accountability.
During the news conference, opposition leaders lashed out at the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government over its alleged failure on all fronts. They particularly took the premier to task over his allegation that the opposition’s no-confidence move was part of some foreign agenda.
Mr Sharif termed it a “foolish allegation” by the prime minister, stating that all those sitting with him were patriotic Pakistanis. He said they had taken this step in the “national interest”.
The opposition also castigated Mr Khan’s recent statement against the European Union (EU) on the Ukraine issue and termed the PTI government’s foreign policy disastrous for the country.
The PML-N leader warned that PM Khan’s irresponsible rants regarding foreign policy were a matter of serious concern and could jeopardise national interest. He regretted that Mr Khan had even annoyed a friend like China, which had always supported Pakistan in the difficult times. Now, he said, the prime minister had annoyed the EU and other countries despite knowing that the country was involved in trade worth billions of rupees with these countries. Responding to a question regarding the possible role of the military establishment in the vote of no-confidence, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who is also the head of the JUI-F, said they had no enmity with any institution. He said they had openly expressed their views whenever they had differences with the decisions and behaviour of these institutions.
In response to a question, Asif Zardari said that tabling of the no-confidence resolution and arrival of the PPP’s long march in the capital on the same day was a mere coincidence and they had not planned it.
“We will secure more than 172 votes. Their (government’s) own people are fed up now. What will they (PTI members) reply to the people of their constituencies?” said Mr Zardari while responding to a question regarding chances of the success of their no-trust move.
Published in Dawn, March 9th, 2022