The crucial National Assembly session to debate the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan, which resumed after a three-day recess on Thursday, was adjourned minutes after it began.
Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, who presided over the session, adjourned the session till 11:30am on Sunday.
At the beginning of the session, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Babar Awan moved a motion to adjourn the session so the assembly hall could be used for the Parliamentary Committee on National Security's meeting that was scheduled to be held at 6pm.
The motion was rejected after voting.
Subsequently, the deputy speaker opened the floor for questions. The opposition MNAs, however, continued to insist that the speaker call for a vote on the no-confidence motion today amid chants of "go Imran go".
Terming the opposition's attitude "non-serious", Suri adjourned the session till Sunday when the vote on the no-confidence motion is expected to take place.
He also announced that the meeting of the parliamentary committee would be held in Committee Room No 2.
The resolution against the embattled premier was tabled by the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif on March 28 and it was approved for debate the very same day.
According to a 24-point agenda issued ahead of the session, the debate on the no-trust motion against the PM was fourth in order.
Yesterday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Prime Minister Imran Khan had decided to present a 'secret letter' — purportedly containing details of a "foreign conspiracy" to topple his government — during an in-camera session of the NA or a joint session of parliament, however, no date for when such a session would be called was given.
The premier hopes that after becoming aware of the alleged letter's contents, his party dissidents, as well as disgruntled allies, would change their mind to vote in favour of the no-trust resolution.
Yesterday, the premier had shared the letter with the cabinet members in a hurriedly called meeting, which was not attended by its two major allies — Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) — despite being invited.
The premier had also called a selected group of TV anchors and informed them that "the language of the letter was threatening and arrogant" and that Pakistan would face dire consequences if the no-confidence motion failed.
Deputy speaker broke the law: Shehbaz
Later, at a media briefing outside the National Assembly, Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif accused the deputy speaker of violating the Constitution.
"In these four days, the speaker has the right to conduct voting whenever he wants to. But speeches were supposed to be held today," he said.
"During the question hour, when each and every member of the opposition demanded that the vote on the no-trust motion be immediately held, the deputy speaker ran away. Suri has broken the law today," Shehbaz claimed.
PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that despite whatever happened in the Parliament, the opposition "won" today.
"We produced 175 members in the house today," he shared, adding that the prime minister has lost the majority and cannot run away now.
"You [Imran Khan] don't have any safe passage, back door or face-saving opportunity] now. Yes, there's an honourable way... Resign and show some respect to democracy," he told the premier.
"You should give Shehbaz Sharif a chance in the no-confidence vote or come to the Parliament and complete the numbers game," the PPP leader added.
Parliamentary committee meeting at 6pm
Following the premier's decision to show the letter to parliamentarians, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Thursday summoned a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security at 6pm.
In a statement, the National Assembly Secretariat said the meeting would be presided over by the speaker while the leaders of all parliamentary parties have also been invited to attend.
"A briefing on the secret letter will be given in the national security committee meeting," according to the statement.
PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, MQM-P convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui — all of whom are among members of the committee — were invited to attend the meeting.
Amongst those specially invited were Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf, BAP Senator Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti, MNA Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, MNA Makhdoom Hussain Qureshi and MNA Amer Ali Khan Magsi.
Later in the day, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib said that the government "will put all the points in front of you so that tomorrow no one blames us".
"The opposition shouldn't run away now," he said at a media talk in Islamabad.
Habib refused to confirm if Prime Minister Imran would attend the meeting but said that the foreign minister, who was in China for a three-day session on Afghanistan, would be returning today.
"He [Qureshi] will reveal the details in the meeting," the minister added.
Sherry calls for voting today
Meanwhile, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman on Thursday said the NA speaker had no "constitutional" or "moral" justification to delay voting on the no-trust motion and demanded that it be held today.
In a series of tweets, she said that Imran Khan's "artificial" majority had now turned into a minority. "If the no-confidence vote is held, today will be the last day of Imran Khan's selected government. What unseen help is Imran Khan waiting for?"
Earlier in the week, federal Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid had said that voting on the no-confidence resolution would take place on April 3.
In her tweets today, Rehman claimed that the "sinking ship" of the government was using the alleged 'secret letter' to escape.
"After the MQM, BAP, Jamhoori Watan Party and independent members joined the opposition alliance, Imran Khan should not have held the post of Prime Minister for a single day," she tweeted, adding that it was better for the prime minister to resign.
Opposition has upper hand
A day earlier, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), previously a key ally of the PTI-led coalition government, formally announced that it was joining the opposition ranks.
After pulling out the seven-member MQM-P, the opposition parties have now managed to cross the magical figure of 172 — the minimum number required to form the government at the Centre — and now enjoy the support of 177 members in the National Assembly even without nearly over a dozen dissidents of the ruling PTI, who had already publicly declared the withdrawal of their support to the prime minister.
"We had 26 seats in the previous assembly. Under planning, these were reduced to seven. But now we have proved that neither a government can be formed nor removed without these seven seats," said MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui while formally making the announcement of the party's decision which, he added, had been endorsed by the party’s decision-making Rabita Committee.
Delay in tabling resolution
A delegation of senior opposition lawmakers had on March 8 submitted the no-trust motion against the premier to the National Assembly Secretariat.
According to the assembly's rules and procedures, from the day the resolution is moved, it "shall not be voted upon before the expiry of three days, or later than seven days".
The no-trust resolution against the prime minister was expected to be tabled on March 25, but the proceedings were deferred after the NA speaker adjourned the sitting within minutes and ignored Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif who wanted to seek the floor to deliver a speech.
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. Qaiser had stated at the time that according to tradition, the agenda was deferred to the next day when a member of the lower house passed away.
Later, the opposition had lashed out at the speaker for not giving the floor to Shehbaz, stating that it was also a parliamentary tradition that the opposition leader was always given the floor whenever he stood up to speak.
No prime minister in the country's history has seen out a full term, and PM Imran is facing the biggest challenge to his rule since being elected in 2018, with opponents accusing him of economic mismanagement and foreign-policy bungling.
Last year in March, the premier had voluntarily sought a trust vote following an upset in Senate elections. In a show of strength, he had secured 178 votes — six more than required — to win the vote of confidence from the National Assembly.