NA gets another shot at history, no-confidence

Published April 9, 2022
Security personnel arrive to deploy in front of Parliament House building in Islamabad on April 3. — AFP/File
Security personnel arrive to deploy in front of Parliament House building in Islamabad on April 3. — AFP/File

• No-trust resolution filed against Qasim Suri
• Imran strategises with PTI parliamentary group
• Opposition to bring dissidents into play only if needed

ISLAMABAD: All eyes are fixed on the National Assembly today, which is set to vote on the crucial no-confidence resolution against Prime Minister Imran Khan in line with Thursday’s Supreme Court verdict.

But despite an impression that it has lost its majority in the lower house, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is still adamant that it would not leave the field open for the opposition and has vowed to make things as difficult for them as they can, be it creating hurdles in the voting procedure or preventing the election of opposition nominee Shehbaz Sharif as the new leader of the house.

According to Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, the government will present the ‘threatening’ cable or its contents in the assembly and will ask the speaker for a debate on the issue.

Speaking to ARY News on Friday night, he was of the opinion that even though the vote of no confidence was on the agenda, voting would likely not take place on Saturday.

He said that while the SC had instructed voting to be held in the session called on April 9, that doesn’t mean it will have to be on the same date.

No-trust against Suri

In another significant move, the opposition on Friday submitted a no-confidence resolution against Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, which contains three charges, chief among which is the issuance of the controversial April 3 ruling, which was subsequently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The no-confidence resolution against Mr Suri, along with a motion seeking permission for it to be put to vote, was submitted to the National Assembly Secretariat by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA and former deputy speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi.

In the resolution, the opposition has accused Mr Suri of “repeatedly violating the rules, parliamentary practices, democratic norms and traditions and even constitutional provisions”.

They alleged that “instead of performing his role fairly and impartially, the deputy speaker has acted in a blatantly partisan manner invariably favouring the government, especially in passing legislation, and has frequently deprived the opposition members of their inherent, democratic right to speak and voice their views and the views of their electorate”.

Moreover, while referring to the SC’s verdict, it alleges that “the deputy speaker has wilfully and malafide-ly (sic) subverted the Constitution and his action falls within the purview of Article 6 of the Constitution”.

The opposition had already submitted a no-confidence resolution against Speaker Asad Qaiser minutes before the start of the National Assembly sitting on April 3, when the house had been called to vote on the no-trust resolution against the PM.

The orders of the day for today’s sitting remain the same as those issued for the April 3 session. The sitting is expected to commence around 10.30am.

Ahead of the session, on Friday, Prime Minister Imran Khan presided over a meeting of the party’s parliamentary group which, according to some media reports, was attended by 98 members. On the other hand, the opposition is also planning to convene meeting of its parliamentary group this morning (Saturday).

Opposition strategy

Opposition sources told Dawn that after acquiring the required numbers in the assembly to make their no-confidence resolution successful, through the support of former PTI allies and independents, opposition parties had decided not to bring into play the 22 PTI dissidents they claim to have on their side, as it would open them up to possible disqualification under Article 63-A of the Constitution.

Leaders belonging to the PML-N and the PPP claimed that they had devised their strategy for the Saturday’s sitting and they had directed their members to remain “cool and patient” in case the treasury members took some steps to provoke them in order to create disturbance.

“Yes. We will not ask the PTI members (dissidents) to vote as we have the sufficient numbers required to oust the government. These PTI members will be in reserve and some of them can be asked to vote only in case of an emergency if any of the members is found missing,” a senior PPP leader told Dawn.

When asked why these dissidents had polled their votes on April 3 during the opposition-convened session, the PPP leader said they had cast their votes on their own because they knew that it was a symbolic sitting.

Commenting on reports that the PTI had decided to prolong the voting process through lengthy speeches during the NA sitting, PML-N’s secretary general Ahsan Iqbal said any attempt to prevent members from casting their vote on the no-confidence resolution against the prime minister would amount to “contempt of court” as the SC in its verdict had clearly stated that voting on the resolution must take place on Saturday.

Earlier in the day, speaking at a news conference, Mr Iqbal hoped that the speaker and the staff of the National Assembly Secretariat would ensure the implementation of the SC verdict, which was quite clear that the assembly session would resume on Saturday from the point where it had been prorogued by the deputy speaker without putting the resolution for a vote through his controversial ruling.

Mr Iqbal said the opposition had a “clean and non-controversial majority” of 177 members who belonged to the opposition parties as well as the parties which were formerly allies of the PTI.

“It has now become the PTI vs the rest,” said Mr Iqbal.

The PML-N secretary general and MNA from Narowal also warned NA staff from attempting to violate the apex court verdict.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2022

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