• Deputy speaker allows motion, puts off debate until 31st
• BAP, PML-Q’s Cheema join opposition
• MQM to decide in a day or two

ISLAMABAD: The capital on Monday witnessed dramatic political events as within an hour of the formal tabling of the no-confidence resolution against Prime Minister Imran Khan in the National Assembly by Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) threw its weight behind the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) while the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) crossed over to the opposition, thus making the political situation more perplexed.

The decision by the leaders of two major allies of the ruling PTI, however, caused a rift within the parties. PML-Q’s Tariq Bashir Cheema categorically announced his support for the opposition whereas the absence of Zubaida Jalal from a joint press conference of the BAP lawmakers with the opposition leaders was noticed by the reporters who were told by the opposition members that she was unhappy over the leadership’s decision and might vote for Imran Khan in the assembly.

The PML-Q’s decision to continue to be a part of the ruling coalition at the Centre and in Punjab came after PM Khan directly offered the office of Punjab chief minister to Chaudhry Parvez Elahi.

With numbers game in the assembly now tilting a little in favour of the opposition, the undecided seven-member Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and over a dozen dissidents within the PTI have now acquired a central role in deciding the fate of the no-confidence resolution.

MQM-P leader Aminul Haq told a TV channel that his party would make its decision in a day or two after having further in-house consultations.

On the other hand, dissident PTI MNA from Muzaffargarh Basit Bokhari claimed during a TV talk show that some 24 PTI members had decided to support the opposition’s vote of no-confidence and said Imran Khan would not be the country’s prime minister by April 4.

Tabling of resolution

National Assembly Deputy Spe­­aker Qasim Suri allowed Shehbaz Sharif to formally table the no-confidence resolution against the prime minister after 161 opposition members supported the motion for its presentation.

Under the Constitution, a minimum of 20 per cent (69 members) of the total 342-member house is required to support the resolution for its admission and tabling.

Some treasury members sitting on the back benches raised slogans against the opposition leadership when Mr Sharif was reading out the text of the resolution, which states: “This House is of the view that the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has lost the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly of Pakistan [and], therefore, he should cease to hold the office.”

Soon after presentation of the resolution, the deputy speaker adjourned the sitting till March 31 for a “debate”.

Under the Constitution, the speaker is now bound to put the resolution for a vote not before March 31 and not later than April 4.

Talking to Dawn after adjournment of the sitting, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MNA Syed Naveed Qamar said they had been informed by the government side that the speaker would place the resolution before the house for a debate on March 31 and not for voting. He said it seemed that the government would delay the voting by April 4 in an effort to gain time to garner more support.

Before allowing Shehbaz Sharif to table the resolution, the deputy speaker gave floor to Zain Qureshi to introduce the 26th Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2022 seeking creation of south Punjab province. The bill had been submitted by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday.

Cheema’s revolt

Federal Minister for Housing Tariq Bashir Cheema resigned from the cabinet and the party office and vowed to cast his vote against the prime minister soon after Imran Khan offered the office of Punjab chief minister to Parvez Elahi, currently speaker of the provincial assembly, during a meeting at his Banigala residence.

The meeting took place exactly at a time when the National Assembly was in session to take up the no-trust resolution.

It may be recalled that Mr Elahi had met the leaders of both the PML-N and PPP on Sunday night and sought some more time for consultations.

Later, talking to a private TV channel, Mr Cheema said he had always voted in line with the party over the past 18 years, but now he had decided to vote according to his “conscience”, stating that he could not vote for a person [Imran Khan] who had humiliated his party leadership again and again.

Mr Cheema is also against the idea of creation of south Punjab province and has openly demanded formation of Bahawalpur province.

BAP joins opposition camp

The BAP’s decision to join the opposition benches was announced by the party’s parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Khalid Magsi during a hurriedly called news conference with four out of five party lawmakers in the presence of the top opposition leadership at a local hotel.

Shehbaz Sharif, former president Asif Zardari, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman were also present during the news conference.

Mr Magsi said his party had reached the conclusion to join the opposition after consultations. He said Balochistan had been ignored and the party wanted the province’s issues to be addressed which was why BAP had decided to support the opposition.

Mr Magsi got upset when he was asked some nasty and direct questions by reporters about the party’s alleged association with the military establishment.

“On whose instructions are you asking this question?” replied Mr Magsi when a reporter asked the former on whose instructions he had toppled the PML-N government in Balochistan in 2018.

“Why are you scared? Why don’t you take the army’s name? Ask me whether I did it on the army’s instructions. And if I did it, so what? I did it. Is it a sin? Did I do it on the Indian army’s instructions? Do not ask pointed questions. If you will do it you will get answers in kind,” he went on saying.

In response to a similar question if his party had decided to join the opposition’s camp on the instructions of the military establishment, Mr Magsi said: “When they [military establishment] are on the sidelines, you do not forgive them, and when they intervene even then you don’t forgive them.”

Speaking on the occasion, Shehbaz Sharif challenged Imran Khan to present the letter which he had shown at Sunday’s public meeting as an evidence of the involvement of foreign hands in the no-confidence motion before parliament. He said if he found the evidence true, he would stand by Mr Khan.

He said that soon after forming the government, they would make efforts to resolve the issues being faced by Balochistan.

Asif Ali Zardari said that soon they would elect Shehbaz Sharif as the country’s prime minister and there would be ministers in the cabinet from Balochistan.

Meanwhile, after successfully wooing the PML-Q to his side, Prime Minister Khan held a meeting with a delegation of the MQM-P. He also met some PTI MNAs and members of provincial assemblies from Sindh and Punjab.

Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2022

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