D-Chowk picked as first war front: PTI plans power show to counter no-trust move

Published March 15, 2022
Prime Minister Imran Khan talks to Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Dr Fehmida Mirza and other GDA lawmaker Ghous Bakhsh Mehr during his visit to Parliament Lodges on Monday.—White Star
Prime Minister Imran Khan talks to Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Dr Fehmida Mirza and other GDA lawmaker Ghous Bakhsh Mehr during his visit to Parliament Lodges on Monday.—White Star

• Fawad, Kiani say lawmakers will face ‘one million’ PTI workers on way to cast vote
• BAP asks PM to shun ‘politics of confrontation’; GDA assures Imran of support

ISLAMABAD: Amid rising political temperature in the country, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has decided to stage a “mammoth” public meeting at D-Chowk on March 27, warning lawmakers that they will have to wade through a crowd of ‘one million’ to enter Parliament House for casting their vote on the no-trust motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

However, one of the ruling coalition partners expressed strong reservation over the planned power show of the PTI and urged PM Khan during his first visit to the Parliament Lodges since coming to power to “stop doing politics of confrontation”.

The decision to gather PTI workers at D-Chowk on March 27 was made in the ruling party’s core committee meeting, which was presided over by Mr Khan. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed after the meeting told the media that the prime minister had directed the committee members to gather a crowd of one million people at D-Chowk.

Interestingly, the core committee was also attended by NA Speaker Asad Qaiser and Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri despite the opposition’s reservations that they both were showing inclination towards the government.

As the deadline to summon the National Assembly session draws near, Prime Minister Khan on Monday evening visited Parliament Lodges, which houses residences of more than 340 parliamentarians, for the first time after coming to power in 2018, apparently to woo the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) leaders to cement the ruling alliance amid opposition’s efforts to win their support for the no-confidence motion.

During the meeting with Mr Khan, BAP leaders expressed reservations on a number of issues. They asked him not to resort to the “politics of confrontation” and cancel the PTI public meeting on March 27.

Talking to Dawn after the meeting, BAP leader Khalid Magsi said they discussed reservations and problems with the prime minister. “We have presented to the PM our reservations and problems we have suffered during the last three-and-a-half years and urged him not to go for public meeting on March 27, because it can trigger bloody politics and chaos in the country,” Mr Magsi said.

He told Dawn that he had informed Mr Khan that the PTI had never backed the BAP in crucial times when the party split into two groups in Balochistan and that no practical steps were taken for the development of the neglected province.

Mr Magsi said the BAP had spent more than three years with the PTI-led ruling alliance. “Now we are looking towards the opposition what options it will give for the betterment of Balochistan,” he said. The BAP leader conceded that they were also observing the behavior of the Chaudhrys of Gujrat [PML-Q leaders] in the political scenario. “So we are watching everything and we will soon take our decision whether to stick to the ruling alliance or quit it,” he added.

Besides Mr Magsi, Zubaida Jalal, Rubina Irfan, Sardar Israr Tarin and Mir Ahsan Reki also attended the meeting with the premier.

GDA assures PM of support

A source close to the Grand Democratic Alliance said GDA leaders reassured their support to the prime minister while seeking his attention towards development of the most-neglected districts of Sindh. Former interior minister Zulfiqar Mirza accompanied his wife Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Fehmida Mirza and Ghous Bakhsh Mehr of the GDA during the meeting. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar and Dr Shehbaz Gill represented the PTI at the meeting.

Statements of some PTI legislators following the party’s core committee meeting on Monday indicated that the voting would take place after the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) foreign ministers’ summit, which has been scheduled to be held in the federal capital from March 21 to 23. However, uncertainty still prevails over the exact day of voting in the National Assembly, as multiple dates (March 27 and 28) are circulating in relevant quarters.

Since Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and PTI leader Amir Mehmood Kiani warned the lawmakers they would have to pass through the ‘one million’ PTI workers to reach the parliament for voting, their statements suggested that the voting would take place on March 27. However, PTI Senator Faisal Javed’s claim that voting will be held after March 27 showed that the public meeting might turn into a prolonged dharna [sit-in].

Addressing a joint presser after PTI’s core committee meeting, Mr Chaudhry and Mr Kiani talked about the decision to gather one million people at D-Chowk they intentionally did not disclose the date of the power show, but Planning Minister Asad Umar, Energy Minister Hammad Azhar and Senator Faisal Javed disclosed that the public meeting would be held on March 27.

Mr Chaudhry said: “The PTI will stage a mammoth public meeting at D-Chowk that will change the politics of the country and “end the game of three clowns — Asif Ali Zardari, Nawaz Sharif and Maulana Fazlur Rehman”. He claimed that three PTI MNAs had been offered Rs160 million to Rs200 million by the opposition to change their loyalty against the PM. “We cannot disclose the name of three MNAs who after receiving the offers, intimated the party leadership,” he added.

Also, Mr Kiani said: “MNAs [on the voting day on no-confidence motion] will have to pass through the rally of one million people before and after casting their votes.”

The ‘threat’ was strongly condemned by the leaders of the opposition parties— Marriyum Aurangzeb and Khawaja Saad Rafiq of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Sherry Rehman of the Pakistan Peoples Party.

In a tweet, PTI Senator Faisal Javed Khan said the “biggest rally” in Pakistan’s history would be held at Islamabad’s D-Chowk, located in front of Parliament House, on March 27 during which PM Imran would give a “historic speech.

“Voting on the no-confidence resolution will take place after March 27. The opposition will face complete defeat. Confidence in PM Imran Khan will [increase].”

Also, Energy Minister Hammad Azhar in a tweet wrote: “A historic public meeting [of PTI] will be on March 27 at D-Chowk that will end the politics of looters. The country will not be run on international agendas. Long live Pakistan.”

After holding consultations and marathon sessions for weeks, the opposition had submitted the no-confidence motion on March 8. Besides submitting the resolution under Article 95 of the Constitution, the opposition members had 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. Under the Constitution, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser is 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.

A source in the National Assembly Secretariat said President Dr Arif Alvi could summon the NA session on March 21 and according to the parliamentary tradition, on the first day the session, the speaker may adjourn it for the next day due to the demise of MNA Khayal Zaman from NA-33 (Hangu). During the first three days (March 21-23) the NA will virtually remain in session but no proceedings of the house will be held, as the OIC summit will take place at the same venue [NA hall] for three days. On the next day [March 24], no-confidence motion could be tabled and under Rule-37 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly-2007, voting cannot take place three days after tabling of the motion, thus the PM will have a gap of three days for more preparation to win the required number of 172 votes and the voting may take place on March 27 or March 28.

When contacted, Mr Chaudhry did not confirm the dates of summoning the NA session and voting on no-confidence motion. “Everything depends on the flow of the air,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2022

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