After Prime Minister Imran Khan, the opposition on Monday turned its guns towards Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and submitted a no-confidence motion against him in the Punjab Assembly.
A delegation of senior lawmakers submitted the no-trust motion against Buzdar with Punjab Assembly Secretary Muhammad Khan Bhatti. The secretary confirmed that the motion had been submitted, adding that it would be presented to the assembly speaker according to the rules and regulations.
"Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi will take action on the no-confidence motion and requisition [notice] in accordance with the Constitution and the law," he said.
According to Radio Pakistan, the chief minister cannot dissolve the provincial assembly once the motion is submitted while the speaker is bound to convene the session within 14 days.
The requisition notice, a copy of which is available with Dawn, has been signed by PML-N leaders Rana Mashhood, Samiullah Khan, Mian Naseer, and others.
An official handout issued by the provincial assembly stated that 127 lawmakers had signed the no-trust motion against Buzdar while 120 had signed the requisition notice.
"As per the Constitution, the signatures of 74 members are required to requisition the provincial assembly session," Mashhood said in a video, adding that Buzdar can't dissolve the assembly once the no-trust move is submitted.
Party strength in Punjab Assembly
Speaking to media outside the Punjab Assembly later in the day, Mashhood, along with other opposition members, said that the speaker was now required to call a session of the provincial assembly within 14 days.
"The requisition was submitted at 9:45am today and it is the decision of the people of Punjab who no longer want Buzdar as the chief minister," the PML-N leader said.
He said that the opposition had collected signatures for the motion back when the no-trust move was being submitted against the federal government. "We have more than 126 signatures and, God willing, on the day it will be tabled more than 200 people will vote against Buzdar."
PML-N leader Hina Pervez Butt shared a copy of the requisition notice, and said: "We still have to go to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir."
The move comes just a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan, in what the PTI billed as a historic rally named the Amr Bil Maroof public gathering, alleged that a "foreign-funded conspiracy" was hatched against his government.
On March 8, a delegation of senior opposition lawmakers had submitted the no-trust motion against the prime minister with the National Assembly Secretariat. However, the motion has not been tabled in the lower house of parliament so far.
The NA speaker — who had called the opposition-requisitioned session on March 25, three days after the expiry of the constitutionally mandatory 14-day deadline — had adjourned the sitting until Monday (today). He did not allow the opposition’s no-trust resolution to be tabled after offering fateha for the deceased PTI MNA from Hangu Khayal Zaman as per the parliamentary tradition.
Buzdar vows to face no-trust move
Meanwhile, Buzdar vowed to face the no-trust move. Tweets shared by the office of the chief minister stated that Buzdar was in constant contact with provincial lawmakers who had expressed their trust in him.
"Our numbers are complete," he said, adding that the Chaudhry brothers were well aware of how the Sharifs had broken promises in the past.
"I expect the PML-Q to stick with us," he said. Buzdar also added that the group of lawmakers led by estranged PTI leader Jahangir Tareen were a part of the party and would support him, adding that there was plenty to "surprise" the opposition with in Punjab.
PTI, PML-N make moves on PML-Q
The move against Buzdar also comes after the government made last-ditch efforts on Saturday to convince their allies, the PML-Q and MQM-P, to support the prime minister.
“A government team led by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has given his words that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar will be asked to resign in a day or two, and that Elahi is the PTI government’s preferred choice for his replacement,” a PML-Q senior leader told Dawn seeking anonymity.
After some news channels quoted sources as saying that Buzdar had prepared a summary to dissolve the Punjab Assembly, a PML-Q leader claimed: “The Punjab Assembly will not be dissolved, but a change of leader of the house is on the cards.”
“PML-Q secretary general and federal minister Tariq Bashir Cheema told the government team to make a formal announcement regarding Mr Elahi as the candidate for the CM before going for voting on the no-confidence motion in the National Assembly,” a leader of the allied party told Dawn.
At the same time, the PML-Q has also been in contact with the PML-N. On Sunday, the government's key ally at the Centre and Punjab, sought more time for consultations before making a final decision on the issue of no-confidence resolution against PM Imran, stating that it wanted all the allies to make a collective decision.
“We will try to come out with our decision in a day or two,” declared Cheema while talking to reporters after a meeting of the PML-N delegation with PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.
“Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), the other two allies of the government, have their own issues. We also have some issues. But since we are smaller parties, it is our desire that we all make a collective decision regarding support to the opposition so that we can have a strong defence line,” he said.