Imran stands at the crossroads

PM takes vote of confidence today; meets party MPs, coalition partners to garner support


Rizwan Ghilzai/z Ali March 06, 2021
A view of the National Assembly as it went orange on Wednesday to show solidarity with the global 16 Days of Activism campaign against Gender-Based Violence. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD/ HYDERABAD:

As political uncertainty grips Islamabad, Prime Minister Imran Khan faces a daunting challenge to his nearly two-and-a-half-year old government.

He will seek a vote of confidence from the National Assembly today (Saturday) that is specially convened to take up the single agenda item.

The prime minister during a televised address to the nation on Thursday had announced that he would obtain a vote of confidence.

The move is seen as countering the Pakistan Democratic Alliance move to bring a vote of no-confidence against the prime minister following a stunning defeat of ruling party’s Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on the Islamabad seat in the high-stakes Senate election held on March 3.

Hafeez lost to PDM’s joint candidate Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani 169-164.

Saturday’s session, however, appears to be a one-sided show after PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman announced that the opposition parties will boycott the session.

“A session for seeking vote of confidence for the PM has been called in the national assembly. But no member from the opposition will participate in that session,” Fazl, who also heads Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl, announced at a news conference in Sukkur on Friday evening.

He said that the government coalition parties’ defeat in the Senate elections and the subsequent requisition letter for an assembly’s session by President Arif Alvi have both testified that Imran has lost support of the majority.

The president had requisitioned the National Assembly for the purpose of requiring the prime minister to obtain a vote of confidence under Article 91(7) of the Constitution.

“The no confidence has been conveyed by means of [former PM Yousuf Raza] Gilani’s success [in the Senate polls],” he contended. “And Alvi has mentioned the same reason in his requisition that in his view Imran has lost the majority’s support.”

He contended that the president’s observation that the PM has lost confidence of the house further strengthened stance of the opposition.

Fazl said the session for the vote of confidence will lose credence because of non-participation of the opposition.

“In the country as well as in the world this government won’t be considered a representative government of the people.”

He asserted that there is no executive and no government in Pakistan and that the assemblies should be dissolved immediately for holding fresh elections so that the nation could elect their true leader.

He said Imran’s body language during his Thursday’s address to the nation shows that he is feeling defeated.

He questioned on what moral ground will Imran stand when he seeks a vote of confidence from the same MNAs whom he has publicly dubbed as auctioned commodities.

“Will he take a vote of confidence from the same 18 members whom he says had sold themselves?” He underscored that without those 18 votes, the PM will not win the majority’s confidence.

Meanwhile, in an effort to garner support of allies, the prime minister, besides chairing a parliamentary party meeting, on Friday separately met a delegation of the coalition partner from Sindh – the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan.

The MQM-P delegation, led by Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, reposed full confidence in Premier Imran, saying that the party has some reservations over the existing system of governance but “still it stood by the prime minister”.

Federal ministers Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Shafqat Mahmood, Asad Umar and Pervez Khattak were also in attendance.

The delegation put forward its demands and concerns in the meeting with PM Imran.

Maqbool apprised the prime minister that they had no objection to Sadiq Sanjrani being the candidate for the Senate chairmanship.

“He [Sanjrani] also contacted us but the prime minister’s procedure is not right,” Maqbool said, adding that if the PM brings his party's candidate for the deputy chairman’s post without consulting all allies, “we will be free to decide on March 12”.

Sources said that the MQM leadership told the prime minister that they wanted a change in the system so that they could be able to deliver to the people.

According to the sources, the prime minister directed consulting the MQM on matters related to Sindh.

“I am striving for a change in the system, the struggle will continue to ensure transparency in the institutions,” the sources quoted the PM as saying.

On the other hand, sources said that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has once again contacted the MQM-P.

“If the MQM accepts the deputy chairmanship's offer, the PPP will persuade other Pakistan Democratic Movement parties to accept it,” they added.

The PPP also approached the GDA for the Senate chairmanship, as the “PTI members are responsible for the defeat of the GDA candidate on the general seat from Sindh”.

MQM Pakistan has three votes in the Senate while GDA has one.

During the parliamentary party meeting, Dr Fehmida Mirza said that some PTI members in the Sindh Assembly did not vote for “our Senate candidate as promised” and urged the prime minister to investigate the matter.

Talking to media person outside the Sindh Assembly on Friday, GDA MPAs said that the PTI lawmakers did not cast votes for their candidate, Syed Sadaruddin Shah Rashdi, in the Senate election in the province.

“We will take action against those of our people who sold votes in Sindh,” the prime minister told the lawmaker from the GDA. Mirza, who is also a federal minister, assured the prime minister that despite these reservations, “we trust you and we stand by you”.

During the meeting, emotional scenes were witnessed. PTI members chanted slogans in favour of the prime minister. Shahid Khattak and Imran Khattak from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa asked the prime minister to stay firm on his mission.

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