ISLAMABAD: After the presence of nearly a dozen Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) legislators in the Sindh House became public knowledge on Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan directed National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser to commence the sitting of the lower house on March 21 and take action against “PTI’s possible turncoats”.
The decision was made in a meeting convened at the PM House, attended by Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Javed Khan and the NA Speaker.
Meanwhile, PTI leaders claimed that some opposition MNAs were in close contact with the government and ready to lend their support to the treasury benchers.
However, opposition members and some constitutional experts were of the view that after the submission of no-confidence resolution against the prime minister, the speaker — in his capacity as custodian of the house — should not be taking part in any meetings called by the PM.
In a press conference, PTI leaders called Sindh House “the new Changa Manga” and claimed that money was being used to buy the loyalties of PTI lawmakers.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told Dawn that a decision to summon an NA session would be taken by the speaker, and not the prime minister.
When asked about possible action against what he termed ‘PTI turncoats’, he said: “PM Khan has decided to de-seat them before voting on the no-trust motion.”
He said the treasury members currently in Sindh House had violated the Constitution and under Article 63 of the Constitution, the leader of the party could take action against them.
“PTI has initiated legal proceedings on the matter as per Article 63 (A) (1), if a party leader comes to a conclusion that a member of his party has defected, he can move a reference for their disqualification,” Mr Chaudhry added.
In a joint press conference with the information minister and Energy Minister Hammad Azhar, PTI Secretary General Asad Umar said that PM Khan could also throw money at opposition lawmakers, but would not do so because he does not stand for the “politics of blackmailing and bribery”.
“Imran Khan is in politics not for himself, but for the nation,” he added. He also claimed some opposition MNAs were also in close contact with the government.
“We want to make it clear that we will not do any deals and will not disburse ministries to stay in power. We will remain engaged with our allies but there will be no wheeling and dealing,” said Mr Azhar.
Separately, on Thursday, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed triggered a new debate when he suggested that governor’s rule be imposed in Sindh on the grounds that ‘open horse-trading was underway at Sindh House”.
Talking to reporters, he said he had advised the PM to do so because the Sindh government was “buying and selling” lawmakers’ votes, which he said was a “conspiracy against democracy”.
“We are not sending police to Sindh House because [dissident PTI lawmakers] went there because of their greed,” he said, adding that the matter was between the lawmakers and their electorate.
“On February 25, 2009, on the recommendation of the then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the then president Asif Ali Zardari under Article 237 of the Constitution imposed governor rule in Punjab against the government of Shehbaz Sharif. The governor rule has been imposed in Sindh province for three times until now,” Rashid later said in a series of tweets.
However, perhaps the minister misquoted the constitutional provision, as it is Article 234 of the Constitution that deals with the power to issue proclamation in case of failure of constitutional machinery in a province.
This article empowers the president to “assume to himself, or direct the governor of the province to assume on behalf of the president, all or any of the functions of the government of the province”, except the powers of the assembly, which are vested with the National Assembly.
Earlier in the day, while commenting on reports about 12 MNAs from PTI were staying at Sindh House, the interior minister had said the nation would reject those who sell their conscience.
He said members of the National Assembly had the right to cast votes in accordance with their conscience and assured there will be no obstacles on the route leading to the National Assembly on the day of voting on the no-trust motion.
The minister said the PM has directed cabinet members to continue consultations with their allies.
It is worth noting that former president Asif Ali Zardari had imposed governor’s rule in Punjab two months, putting then-governor Salman Taseer in charge of the provincial set up.
The move was imposed shortly after the decision of Supreme Court disqualifying Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
It was, however, lifted after little over a month amidst rising political tensions, as a step towards national reconciliation.
Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2022