As National Assembly meets on Monday after a two-day gap, the no-confidence motion moved by the Opposition against Prime Minister Imran Khan is on the agenda. The voting, however, is likely to be held on April 4 or 5, as per Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid. If the motion is further delayed, a strong protest from the opposition benches is expected.
National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser has already been accused of bias and partisanship by the Opposition after he purportedly delayed convening the session.
Following adjournment of the session and delay in no-confidence motion on Friday, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif wrote a letter to the Speaker, protesting against the delay and terming it a violation of constitutional obligations. The united Opposition might take a stronger stance if the motion is further delayed.
If the voting does take place, the Opposition is likely to succeed as the number game is in its favour. During Friday’s session, all but three members of the Opposition were present. One of the three absent lawmakers is independent MNA Ali Wazir, who is behind bars on charges of sedition for his “anti-state” speeches.
The Opposition on Friday demanded that the Speaker issue production orders for Ali Wazir and ensure he is able to vote on the no-confidence motion. But it is unlikely that the Speaker will pay heed to this demand, as Wazir’s incarceration appears to be a result of his anti-establishment position.
REACTIONS TO IMRAN KHAN’S CLAIMS
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s latest statement about having a letter — a threat — that proves an international conspiracy against his government has been met with skepticism.
Addressing the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s rally at Parade Ground in Islamabad on Sunday evening, the prime minister had claimed to be in possession of a letter that proves his government is being destabilised as part of an international conspiracy against him. He, however, stopped short of sharing the contents of the letter, and said that he could only reveal the details ‘off the record’. This is a grave allegation and merits clearer explanation, but it is unlikely that further details will be provided anytime soon. The claim may just be an attempt by Imran Khan to fuel his supporters’ sentiments.
People on social media have pointed out that Imran Khan has in the past made many such claims which he later failed to prove. In 2015, the PTI had to apologise for Imran Khan’s allegation against then caretaker chief minister of Punjab, Najam Sethi. Khan had accused Najam Sethi of helping to rig the 2013 general elections in Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N)’s favour.
Imran Khan’s accusation that Sethi had mended ’35 punctures’ — meaning that he had facilitated rigging in 35 constituencies to ensure PML-N’s victory — was proved untrue when he later said it was merely a ‘political statement’. He, however, never apologised to Najam Sethi for the same.
Many are also wondering why Imran Khan wants to share details about said letter only ‘off the record’ when he seems certain that a ‘foreign hand’ is out to destabilise his government.
Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry, when asked about the letter by news channels following Khan’s speech, did not seem to know about it. This suggests that Imran Khan may not have taken his cabinet colleagues in confidence over the evidence he purportedly holds.
It has also been pointed out that the prime minister did not choose the forum of Parliament to reveal that there is a letter proving foreign involvement in Pakistan’s affairs. If such a letter did exist, critics say Imran Khan should have taken the political leadership, including other parties in the Parliament, into confidence.
NO ‘SURPRISE’ FROM KHAN
Meanwhile, the speculations that PM Imran Khan would make a big announcement at his party’s power show in Islamabad were laid to rest on Sunday. While it was being suggested that he may reveal the ‘surprise’ or ‘trump card’ he had been talking about or even resign, eventually he stuck to his usual claims during his speech.
The PTI had named its rally ‘Amr bil Maroof’ (a Quranic phrase meaning ‘promote the good’) and it was clear that religion would be invoked. Party workers and leaders were made to take an oath during the event that they would always promote good and stand against evil.
That the prime minister has not tendered his resignation, as was being speculated by some journalists and vloggers, means that he will have to face the vote of no-confidence. On Sunday, a member of the federal cabinet, Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP)’s Shahzain Bugti, announced support for the Opposition after resigning from his post. Bugti was an important ally and member of the cabinet; he was heading the government’s efforts for ‘reconciliation and harmony’ in the Balochistan province as the prime minister’s special assistant.
His resignation has strengthened the impression that all major allies have decided to quit the government and side with the Opposition over the no-confidence vote. The next few days will determine the PM’s fate.
Private media outlets were reportedly not allowed to cover the ruling party’s rally on Sunday and camerapersons were turned away from the venue. Only the state broadcasters and some digital outlets that are known to support the party were allowed access.
Earlier, Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry had said that national and international media would freely cover the rally. But this was clearly not the case.
A version of this article first appeared on India Today.