SRINAGAR: Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan’s fate hangs in balance as the no-confidence motion is about to be discussed in the Pakistan national assembly. The motion will be decided any day between March 31 and April 4, if one goes by what Pakistan Interior Minister, Sheikh Rashid said since Sunday, reports appearing in media suggest.
The situation in the neighbouring country emerged after Khan’s key allies quit the alliance and almost a dozen-odd of his own lawmakers sided with the opposition.
Late in the afternoon, Shehbaz Sharif tabled a no-confidence resolution against Khan. As many as 161 members (against the requirement of 68) supported the tabling of the motion. After the motion was accepted, the session was adjourned till March 31, when the debate will be permitted at 4 pm.
Pakistani National Assembly has 342 members and anybody having 172 will rule from Islamabad. Khan’s PTI- led coalition had 179 members including 155 of his own. Besides, there were four major allies Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) having seven, five, five and three members in the assembly respectively.
With more than a dozen of his own members rebelling against Khan, the four allies have indicated they will be supporting the opposition as and when a no-confidence motion is put to vote. Currently focussing on delay, Khan’s party is attempting reconciliation with the erstwhile allies. The opposition says it will have 179 votes, eventually.
“After the decision of Shahzain Bugti of the Jamhoori Watan Party to quit the ruling coalition, the number of treasury members has now reduced to 178 in the 342-member lower house of the parliament, whereas the opposition now enjoys the support of 163 MNAs,” Pakistan newspaper Dawn reported. “The PML-Q, the Balochistan Awami Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan — the three major government allies having 17 MNAs — have yet to decide which side they are on. These parties are still negotiating with both the government and opposition parties.”
Winning Dissidents Back?
“Many PTI dissidents are from South Punjab, and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is also a notable from the same region, has submitted a bill for the creation of a separate province of South Punjab, in the hope that this might bring them back to the party,” The Indian Express reported. “The creation of such a province, carved out of Pakistan’s Punjab province, has been a long-standing regional demand, but it has never been seriously discussed by the Punjabi dominated political and security elite, as it would undermine their own powerful and pre-eminent position.”
Under the draft bill, the south Punjab province would have 56 seats in the National Assembly, including 46 general seats, and 119 in its provincial assembly. Creating south Punjab as the country’s fifth province was one of PTI’s election manifestos.
Khan on Sunday is reported to have addressed a major rally in Islamabad in which he said foreign powers are investing to change the foreign policy of Pakistan.
“Attempts are being made to influence our foreign policy from abroad. We have been aware of this conspiracy for months. We also know about those who have assembled these people (the opposition parties) but the time has changed. This is not the era of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto,” Khan said in his marathon speech, according to Dawn. “This is the era of social media. Nothing can be hidden. We will not accept anyone’s dictation. We will have friendships with everyone but we will not submit ourselves to anyone.”
Khan claimed that they know the places wherefrom attempts are being made to “pressure us”. He said they were “threatened in writing” but “we will not compromise on national interest.” He even claimed to be in possession of evidence — a letter — that he said would prove his point. “The nation wants to know who the man sitting in London is meeting with and whose directions the characters based in Pakistan are following? I am revealing the proofs we have. I cannot talk more in detail because I have to protect the interest of my country.” Earlier, he had appreciated India’s independent foreign policy by explaining how Delhi imported crude oil from Russia despite American sanctions.
Khan, reports said is being advised to call for a snap poll. Pakistan is slated to have a general election in 2023.
Nirupama Subramanian has reported that he is also hoping “hanging on through a last-minute deal with the Pakistan Army and ISI — only they can bring back the supporters who have deserted him over the last few weeks — or just to postpone the inevitable”. She believes that two of Khan’s allies are “creations of the military over the years — BAP came into existence shortly before the 2018 election, the PML(Q) was hacked out of the PML(N) by Musharraf. The MQM has sided with the military most times.”
PTI has already issued a show-cause notice to its dissidents asking them why they cannot be disqualified.
Right now, the claims may be around but the media reports suggest Khan’s PTI is losing numbers. The Sunday rally is being seen as his effort to take the case to people.