Opposition threatens to stage NA sit-in, disrupt OIC moot if no-trust resolution not tabled on Monday

Published March 19, 2022
Balochistan National Party-Mengal chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Pakistan Democratic Movement President Maulana Fazlur Rehman, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (from left to right) speak to media persons in Islamabad. — Photo courtesy PPP Twitter
Balochistan National Party-Mengal chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Pakistan Democratic Movement President Maulana Fazlur Rehman, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (from left to right) speak to media persons in Islamabad. — Photo courtesy PPP Twitter

Opposition leaders warned on Saturday that if the resolution calling for a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Imran Khan was not presented in the NA on Monday — which is the deadline for tabling the resolution — they could stage a "sit-in" in the lower house, thereby hampering an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit that is scheduled to take place there on the same day.

The opposition — primarily the Pakistan Democratic Movement and PPP — had filed the no-trust motion against the premier with the NA Secretariat on March 8.

The opposition had submitted two sets of documents, one under Article 54 of the Constitution to requisition the NA because it was not in session at the time, and the other a resolution calling for a no-confidence vote against the prime minister.

According to Article 54, a session of the National Assembly can be requisitioned if at least 25 per cent of the members sign it, following which the speaker has a maximum of 14 days to summon a session.

After the National Assembly is in session, the rules of procedure dictate that the secretary will circulate a notice for a no-confidence resolution, which will be moved on the next working day.

From the day the resolution is moved, it "shall not be voted upon before the expiry of three days, or later than seven days," according to the rules.

Therefore, the speaker must call the lower house in session by March 22, while voting on the no-confidence motion must take place between three and seven days after the session is summoned.

However, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said today that he had been receiving reports of the NA speaker intending to go against the Constitution, law and rules of the house regarding the no-trust move.

Speaking to the media alongside other opposition leaders in Islamabad, Bilawal noted that the law and rules dictated that proceedings on the no-confidence motion filed against the prime minister must start by Monday with the speaker calling a session for the same on the next day.

"But if the speaker's non-democratic thinking [comes in the way] ... and he doesn't move the no-confidence resolution by Monday, then I will propose within in my party and to other opposition parties as well not to leave the hall," he warned. "Then we will see how you hold your OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) conference", which is scheduled to be held in the NA on March 21 and March 22.

Bilawal continued, "If they threaten us by not following the law, the Constitution and rules of the NA, then it is my stance that we will continue sitting on that floor until we are given our right."

He added, "We also want the OIC [summit] to take place. The entire country wants it to take place. But in order for it to happen in a proper manner without any problems, the only way is that the speaker plays his due role."

"He should not become a member of the PTI ... and think about the country, the democracy and the OIC," Bilawal said. "If he starts the no-confidence proceedings on Monday, there would be no issues in the way of the OIC and we, too, would not have any objections as the no-trust clock would be running in accordance with the law and Constitution."

PML-N President and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, who also spoke on the occasion, gave his consent to Bilawal's proposition and said that if the speaker does not call the session within the stipulated time and uses "delaying tactics, we will then be compelled to stage a sit-in in the assembly hall".

Those coming to attend the OIC summit are the guest of the entire nation, he said, adding, "But we will not allow you to go against the law and Constitution under the garb of this [OIC conference]. We will stage a sit-in then."

'Dissident MNAs must be allowed to exercise their right to vote'

Earlier in the press conference, Shehbaz lashed out at PM Imran for levelling allegations of horse-trading against the opposition.

"He himself is ready to exceed all limits for staying in power but call them [defecting lawmakers] mules and donkeys," Shehbaz said referring to the accusations. He further highlighted that even the PTI's allies had refuted the allegations.

The opposition leader maintained that PTI lawmakers who had parted ways with the ruling party did so out of their own will and on the "voice of their conscience".

Moreover, Shehbaz recalled instances from the past, in which, according to him, the PTI had been guilty of horse-trading.

"They should first look at themselves," he commented, adding, "Let us proceed in line with the law and Constitution and they (dissident PTI lawmakers) should be allowed to exercise their right to vote.

Speaker's role

Shehbaz also urged the NA speaker to play his due role in carrying out the no-confidence proceedings.

Else, he warned, "You will be remembered in bad words in the history."

"There is still time ... Don't become Imran Khan's tool. Don't let this democracy derail," Shehbaz said. "Otherwise, this nation and history will not forgive you".

In this connection, Shehbaz also warned the Islamabad inspector general of police, commissioner and deputy commissioner, as well as the capital's administration, against placing hurdles in the way of the "parliamentary process" of the no-confidence vote and "becoming Imran Khan's tool".

Otherwise, he said, the "law will take its course, and it will take you in its grip".

"Don't complain to us when this happens," he added.

Bilawal warns against giving 'third force a chance'

Later, Bilawal also warned the government against "creating a constitutional crisis so that a third force gets a chance".

Referring to a recent police raid at the Parliament Lodges and the storming of Sindh House in Islamabad by PTI members yesterday, Bilawal said, "PM Imran, after seeing his [impending] defeat, is now resorting to non-democratic actions."

"After expletives, he is now using force ... He is threatening that if he is unable to play, he will not let anyone else play," said Bilawal. The prime minister, he added, was trying to stop lawmakers from exercising their right to vote through the use of violence and a "conspiracy".

"He is trying to create a situation that will lead to a constitutional crisis so that a third force gets a chance," he said, adding that political parties and every citizen were warning the premier against it.

"Don't even think about it ... show some sportsman spirit. Don't do ball-tampering in your last innings. Either show the [support of] 172 [lawmakers] or go home," the PPP chief said.

Bilawal further commented that the PTI government had lost its majority and met its end.

When it was his turn to speak, PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman expressed the confidence that PM Imran, whom he called a "national culprit", and his government would suffer defeat in the no-confidence fight and be sent packing in a disrespectful manner.

He also criticised the premier for using disrespectful and demeaning language while addressing public meetings.

"The words that are coming from his (PM Imran's) mouth apply to him," Fazl said, adding that "we have won this war."

Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) president Sardar Akhtar Mengal also condemned the storming of the Sindh House on Friday and said if such an incident could take place in the capital, "imagine what is happening in the country's remote regions".

He also lamented that charges framed against the protesters who stormed the Sindh House were not as harsh as the charges of "treason framed against our students who staged a protest in Islamabad for the recovery of one of their peers".

"Law is different for the rulers and opposition in this country," he said.

Mengal, who was an ally of the PTI before breaking ranks with the ruling party recently, said, "Prime Minister sahib, you will neither be clean bowled nor catch out. You will neither be run out ... [Your dismissal will be a result of] hit wicket. You will give away your wicket yourself."

In reply to a question about the PTI seeking the disqualification of dissident lawmakers prior to the no-trust vote, Shehbaz maintained that Article 63 (A) of the Constitution dictated that no action could be taken against defecting MNAs until they cast their vote.

When asked about reports that the PTI was planning to achieve this through a presidential ordinance, Shehbaz said "there is no room for a presidential ordinance in this regard".

"If they go ahead with this, we will use all the legal and constitutional weapons at our disposal," he added.

To another question about the possibility of PTI supporters attending a public meeting at D-Chowk stopping lawmakers from reaching the NA on the day of the no-confidence vote, he said, "We don't want a ruckus. But if the PTI insists on holding a rally at D-Chowk ... we will make sure that our supporters reach the NA, cast their votes and return."

When asked about reports of a meeting held at Banigala on Friday, Bilawal said he had no knowledge of any such meeting.

"But Imran Khan has lost and the bureaucracy should not follow any instructions issued by him," he added.

To a question about the possibility of PM Imran "taking a measure to change the leadership of state institutions, a move not in line with ethical values", Fazl said, "He does not have any such right after the no-confidence".

And Shehbaz added that there was no room for any such action.

PTI leaders, Sheikh Rashid respond

Reacting to the opposition's threats of disrupting the OIC summit, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in a statement that the conference "was an event of the state and not the government".

Particularly referring to Bilawal's statements on the matter, he said the PPP chairperson's comments were not sensible.

The minister said invitations for the conference were sent to foreign dignitaries on December 27 last year and they would start arriving in Islamabad from tomorrow (Sunday).

"As the foreign minister, I want to inform the nation that India wants to sabotage this conference," he said, adding, "I hope Bilawal will not become a part of the Indian agenda."

He assured that no lawmaker would be restricted from exercising their right to vote and commented that the opposition now seemed "worried".

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said while speaking to ARY News that opposition parties did not have it in them to prevent the OIC summit from taking place.

"This is a matter of national security," he said, adding that foreign dignitaries arriving in Pakistan to attend the conference were the "guests of Pakistan and the Pakistan army is their guarantor".

He challenged the opposition to stop the OIC summit from taking place if they had the courage to go ahead with their threat.

The interior minister then warned that if the opposition would make any such attempt, "they would be dealt with in a manner that their future generations would not dare to meddle in the matters of national security".

Separately, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail said during a press conference in Islamabad that "Bilawal said he will see how the OIC [summit] takes place. My reply is that I, too, will see who stops the OIC [summit] from taking place."

He said the OIC would take place as planned and in a peaceful manner.

"The state knows how to deal with those who will hamper the summit and they will be dealt with [accordingly]," he warned.

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