Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday said the opposition did not have enough numbers to succeed in its no-confidence move against the prime minister, and questioned why the opposition alliance had announced holding a rally in Islamabad if their numbers were sufficient.
Talking to the media in Islamabad, Qureshi said it was beyond his comprehension why the opposition had announced a rally in the capital.
Hours after the announcement by the ruling PTI to arrange a gathering of “one million people” at D-Chowk on March 27 on the eve of voting on the crucial no-confidence resolution against Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) on Monday gave a call to the public and workers of its component parties to begin a long march towards Islamabad on March 23 to stage a sit-in which could continue till the completion of the voting process in the National Assembly.
The decision to hold the long march towards the capital on Pakistan Day was announced by PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
"Their announcement for a march proves that their numbers are incomplete and they have differences within their ranks," Qureshi told the media today.
The minister said the only consensus among opposition's ranks was to remove Imran Khan. "What will be the future setup, who will be the next prime minister ... They don't have any consensus on it. Their ideology, destination, manifesto are all different," he added.
He said the PPP was taking out rallies to make Shehbaz Sharif the next prime minister. "This is an unholy and a time-bound alliance which will evaporate very soon," he predicted.
He also clarified that the PTI planned rally on March 27 was not a "sit-in", saying, it would be a gathering where the prime minister would present his viewpoint to the public.
When asked whether the PM was right in saying he was facing the no-trust motion because he "challenged the West", Qureshi said Khan's observation was correct. "I have more information than this," the foreign minster said, adding that he would reveal more if the prime minister asked him to do so.
It may be recalled that it was after a meeting of the heads of the component parties in Islamabad on Dec 6 last year that the PDM had announced its plan to hold an anti-inflation long march towards the capital on Pakistan Day.
However, there had been complete silence from the PDM over the long march issue since its decision to move the no-confidence resolution against the prime minister.
The PPP is not a part of the PDM; however, Maulana expressed the hope that the PPP would also announce its decision to participate in the long march, saying he and Shehbaz Sharif had extended a formal invitation to the PPP.
At the time, the government ministers had requested the opposition to delay their protest due to the traditional military parade on Pakistan Day and the presence of foreign dignitaries due to a meeting of foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the capital. However, the opposition turned down the request.
'Opposition should avoid anarchy'
Later in the day, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed warned the opposition to refrain from pushing the country towards "anarchy", saying the consequences for such a move would be disastrous.
Speaking to the media in Islamabad, Rashid said all opposition leaders who had their properties abroad would bear the brunt of their anti-government plan and cautioned them to tread carefully, saying "do not spread anarchy at all".
"The no-confidence motion will be lost somewhere in the middle if anarchy is spread by the opposition," he said.
He insisted that the opposition did not have the required 172 votes to oust the premier through the no-trust vote. "But I am happy that our allies are enjoying [holding meetings with opposition]. All allies will come towards Imran Khan."
The minister noted the OIC meeting was scheduled to be held in Islamabad, while a cricket match between Pakistan and Australia would also take place in Rawalpindi on March 26, adding "I will not reveal all plans that include a strategy to contain the march in the capital."
Rashid reiterated that the opposition lacked the required strength in parliament for the no-confidence motion to succeed, saying "bidding" was also underway to unsettle the strength secured by the treasury side.
He insisted that Prime Minister Imran will emerge stronger by the end of the month.
Govt 'not going anywhere'
Separately, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak reiterated that the government was "not going anywhere" and "no one is being changed".
Speaking to the media in the capital, he said, "The fuss you (opposition) have created ... you will be embarrassed."
When asked whether the "establishment" was neutral, Khattak said nobody should misunderstand that the government and the establishment were separate, adding that they were "together" and would be in the future as well.
"We will not stop anyone or commit injustice. We are decent people and we do politics in accordance with the Constitution. Nobody has the strength to stop anyone from voting," the defence minister said.
"Allies are with us and will remain so in the future," he iterated. "Whoever wants to [vote for the no-confidence motion from the PTI] should resign. They contested [the election] on PTI tickets. If even one person votes [for the motion], he will betray the people."