Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday predicted that most of the dissident lawmakers of his party, whose potential vote against him in the looming no-trust move in the National Assembly could threaten his government, will return back to the PTI because of "public pressure".
Terming the no-confidence resolution against him a "wonderful opportunity", he said, "I predict that as the no-confidence vote nears — I am seeing the public's anger over selling of consciences — most of them (dissident lawmakers) will come back."
Addressing a ceremony in Rawalpindi, he said he was giving the lawmakers the "benefit of doubt", adding that PTI members had been reaching out to them.
The premier's remarks come two days after several PTI lawmakers were found staying at the Sindh House in Islamabad — which is the domain of the Sindh government — and some of them said while speaking to media persons that they would vote on the no-confidence motion tabled against the prime minister in "accordance with their conscience" and that they had developed differences with PM Imran.
Most of these individuals, who joined the PTI before the 2018 elections, claimed that they were staying at the facility of their own will and they decided to move there after observing some suspicious activities and receiving threats while staying at the Parliament Lodges.
All of them refuted allegations that they had been offered money to make the opposition's no-trust move a success.
However, during his speech today, the premier strongly criticised what he termed "illegal activities" at Sindh House. "There is a marketplace for buying consciences," he said, claiming that looted money, including funds "from the Sindh government", were being used to buy votes.
"The Sindh government's [money] is public money. It is illegal to spend that money to buy politicians' conscience," he said.
The prime minister said police had never before been called to the Sindh House for its protection until recently. "What did you fear? If some PTI members had grievances and wanted to [leave], why did they need protection?" he questioned.
He reiterated that the no-confidence resolution was a "blessing from God" so the Pakistani people could see the political system of the country that enables the "buying off of people, looting of the country and then sending the ill-gotten [wealth] abroad".
Taking a jibe at the opposition, he said, "Nobody has any shame. This is not democracy."
The premier said Pakistan's democratic system was based on the Westminster model where "no one can even think of taking money to do floor-crossing."
If anyone tried to offer a parliamentarian in the United Kingdom money, he would be very fearful of what the public would do if he got caught, he said. However, in Pakistan, "money is being given under police protection," he added.
Referring to the storming of the Sindh House by some PTI workers a day earlier, PM Imran said they had "become emotional".
PTI supporters had barged into the Sindh House yesterday after protesting outside for hours against dissident MNAs who are staying at the facility.
Television footage showed PTI workers climbing over the walls of Sindh House with some of them later breaking down the doors to enter the building. They also carried lotas in protest against the alleged "turncoats".
"I tell everyone that peaceful protest is your right but do not clash," the premier said today but called on the public to tell whether what was happening in connection with the no-confidence vote was "real politics".
The world has changed and social media now showed everything that was happening, he said, adding that the country would see a never-seen-before number of people in Islamabad on March 27 for the PTI's rally at D-Chowk.
"The public will show where they stand on March 27," he said.
'Doors of forgiveness are open'
Earlier today, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the PTI had issued show-cause notices to the dissident MNAs. However, "the doors of forgiveness are open", he added.
The lawmakers have been given seven days to reply to the notices, he said while talking to the media in Islamabad.
He claimed that the brother of one of the lawmakers who had been found staying at the Sindh House had contacted the PTI to say that his entire family was "ashamed" and was unable to reach the MNA because of the police deployed at the building.
"You will see their (dissident lawmakers) return journey. As far as whether the government will go [home] or not, it is not happening and will not happen in the future."
The information minister also paid "tribute to people who came out for peaceful protest yesterday" and called them heroes.
"I am very proud of my nation. They have proved this is not 1989 and there are people who will call out evil. I want to give a message to all PTI supporters. Peaceful protest is our right but [protests] should not include violence," he added.
Energy Minister Hammad Azhar, who spoke to the media alongside Chaudhry, said the PTI during its meeting today appreciated that people were "waking up".
Referring to the attack on Sindh House yesterday, he said people had the right to protest against their elected representatives because of "lotacracy and selling of conscience" but "we are against violence."
"Whoever planned this conspiracy did not [take into account] how quickly public sentiment would stand behind Prime Minister Imran Khan and how quickly our workers would be charged. You will see that we will make the no-confidence movement unsuccessful and the only conclusion will be that PM Imran Khan will rise again and our public support will increase," he added.