• Capital witnesses intense last-minute politicking
• Asad Qaiser resigns, Ayaz Sadiq conducts session
• Motion of no-confidence passed by 174 votes
• SC, IHC convene late at night; high security on Constitution Avenue
• Speaker, key party officials shuttle between parliament, PM House ahead of vote
• Shehbaz promises ‘no revenge’
ISLAMABAD: After nearly a full day of high drama that culminated in the early hours of Sunday, the National Assembly expressed a lack of confidence in prime minister Imran Khan, thereby de-seating him from the highest office in the land.
The opposition’s struggle to remove the chief of the PTI from his office bore fruit just minutes before the midnight threshold, when Asad Qaiser resigned from the post of speaker National Assembly around 11:45pm, handing over charge of the lower house to former speaker Ayaz Sadiq — who is a member of the panel of chairpersons.
Mr Sadiq first called for voting on the motion of no-confidence, then had to take a brief adjournment in order to condone the extension of Saturday’s NA sitting beyond midnight.
The session was then re-started, and voting on the no-confidence motion got underway in earnest. Members first signed the rolls and then went into division lobbies. The motion was passed by 174 votes after most treasury members walked out of the house.
It is now expected that nominations for the new prime minister will be submitted today (Sunday), while a vote to elect the new leader of the house — most likely Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif — will be held tomorrow (Monday).
But it may be days before we get to know what really transpired behind closed doors that led to these late night decisions.
A fluid situation
Events came to a head after iftar, when it seemed that the government was in no mood to hold voting and appeared to be heading towards possible contempt of court.
Sources said that Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and other judges who had given the verdict on April 7 also reached SC late at night in anticipation of another crisis.
The Islamabad High Court also sat late night to consider a couple of petitions; one regarding the apprehended removal of the army chief and another civil miscellaneous petition regarding the publicizing of a secret ‘threat letter’ from the US. However, both were disposed of.
Ahead of the speaker’s resignation, PM House remained the hub of political activities with party leaders and other notables rushing back and forth between the executive office and parliament.
After presiding over a cabinet meeting around 9pm, the prime minister also spoke to a select group of journalists and told them about the cabinet’s decision to declassify the diplomatic cable.
He again vowed to ‘fight till the last ball’ and said he would not let the foreign conspiracy succeed. He said at the most, the opposition could put him in jail. He said that he would not violate his oath and would not make any compromise.
The prime minister also refuted the reports about any changes in the military leadership.
Sources said the speaker sent NA Secretariat officials to the nearby Supreme Court building around 10.30pm to extend an assurance that the resolution would be put before the house for the vote before midnight.
Meanwhile, opposition members remained inside the assembly hall and offered prayers, including Isha and Tarveeh on the floor of the house, in front of the speaker’s dais.
At the same time, PML-N leader Azam Nazeer Tarar also reached the Supreme Court, where he told reporters, he said they had come to submit a request before the SC asking it to implement its order since it seemed the government was bent upon creating a constitutional crisis.
The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) had also prepared a contempt of court petition, while lawyer Moulvi Iqbal Haider filed two different petitions, seeking contempt of court proceedings against the prime minister, the speaker as well as senior officials of the National Assembly Secretariat.
Talking to reporters, before assembly proceedings re-started before midnight, Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari said the federal cabinet had decided to declassify and share the “threat letter” sent by the former envoy to Washington, with Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and other top government functionaries, including the NA speaker and Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.
Then, Asad Qaiser was summoned to PM House where the letter was shared with him. In his farewell remarks before the assembly, he noted that he was bound to uphold the Constitution and could not, in good faith, proceed with voting on a the resolution when he was convinced that a foreign conspiracy had been hatched against the government.
Back in the house, the speaker appeared so unnerved after shuttling between the PM House and the Parliament House that he used unsavoury language when a journalist asked him if he would hold a vote on the no-confidence resolution. Outside, on Constitution Avenue, things also heated up, with military and police vehicles lining up outside.
Speaking in the assembly after the motion was passed, Shehbaz Sharif assured all sides that they would not seek retribution after coming into power.
Meanwhile, Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan has tendered resignation.
In his resignation to President Dr Arif Alvi he stated that he had served as AGP since Feb 2020 and for this honour and privilege he remained profoundly grateful to Prime Minister Imran Khan and that he tried to serve the country to the best of his ability and conscience.
Nasir Iqbal, Malik Asad and Tanveer Shahzad also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2022