Showdown on no-confidence motion begins

Beginning of showdown coincides with 30th anniversary of day when Imran Khan captained Pakistan to ODI WC victory

Rizwan Shehzad   March 26, 2022


The long-anticipated test match between the opposition and the treasury benches on the no-confidence motion is finally set to play out on Monday amid the nail-biting ambiguous vagaries of the political climate.

The beginning of the showdown interestingly coincides with the 30th anniversary of the day when Imran Khan captained Pakistan to the first-ever ODI World Cup victory in 1992. Will the “Kaptaan” – as he is affectionately called – repeat history?

To hold the apparently slipping ground tight, the embattled prime minister, in the redux of his cricket match, is slogging it out like a ‘cornered tiger’ to outdo his rivals. From exerting pressure on members who paddled out of the party’s folds and wooing the allies who pivoted to roaring at the rivals in public rallies – PM Khan is putting to test all options at his arsenal.

Read more: My govt performed better than all previous ones in last 50 years: PM

He has also tried to recast his battle with the opposition as “good versus evil” in his efforts to wrestle the matter from the nuts and bolts of constitutional clauses and democratic values.

But as the crisis lurches towards courts and legal interpretation becomes malleable, it is yet to be determined whether the ‘test match’ will draw out to weeks –or even months - or will conclude within the timeframe prescribed by the Constitution. This question has acquired importance especially after a disgruntled member hinted to go back and an independent lawmaker announced to join the opposition ranks.

Under Article 95 of the Constitution, the resolution shall not be voted upon before the expiration of three days, or later than seven days, from the day on which such resolution is moved in the National Assembly.

Show of strength

Political experts believe that the NA speaker would initiate proceedings on the motion from Monday but they also conjectured that he could also come up with some surprise up his sleeves to further delay the motion.

Though both sides are busy playing mind games, Friday’s session showed that the opposition was dead serious about showing its muscle as 159 out of the total 162 of the opposition members were present in the house. The show of strength was crucial as the opposition wanted to send a clear message that it wasn’t merely bluffing about the required numbers and the support of disgruntled members they have been trumpeting about.

Also read: No-trust vote: Speaker adjourns crucial NA session till Mar 28

The government through the NA speaker came into the House with a predetermined mind that proceedings on the no-trust motion would not be initiated and that’s what he did on account of following a longstanding tradition of simply adjourning a session without taking up the agenda.

However, he didn’t follow another tradition that ensures that the opposition leader would get to the floor whenever he stands up to speak. The speaker didn’t allow NA opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif to take the floor and retired to his chambers after adjourning the session.

This irked the opposition leader and the opposition parties and they, subsequently, held a press conference to warn the speaker that there shouldn’t be any delay in taking up the motion or else they would resort to protest.

Apart from irking the opposition, the adjournment of a session has cost the taxpayers roughly Rs25 million.

“We should seriously revisit the practice of taking a day off in NA to honour late legislators,” PILDAT President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob tweeted, “We should pray for departed souls and recall their good deeds but taking the day off makes no sense. Please remember that NA sitting costs av. Rs.25M/day of taxpayers' money.”

'Govt buying time'

Most analysts believe that the government is busy gaining more time through the litigation in the Supreme Court as well as delaying the motion by taking it up till the last minute. They say that the Prime Minister had decided to take a vote of confidence within hours when the government’s financial czar Abdul Hafeez Sheikh had lost to joint opposition’s candidate, ex-PM Yousaf Raza Gillani, on the capital’s seat in the Senate elections.

This time around, the task is the same; that is to gather 172 members or more on his side to defeat the opposition parties but he has been focusing more on holding public rallies on an almost daily basis and, so far, managing to put up a brave face.

The similarity between the 1992 World Cup and taking the vote of confidence was that they were one-day matches; the results were on display in a day. Though 'Kaptaan' can’t turn the ongoing test match between the government and opposition into a one-day match, the least he could do was to make it a fast-paced thriller by swiftly defeating the opposition in the House instead of holding rallies.

The political experts believe that seeing the disgruntled members coming in the open and the allies drifting towards the opposition, the premier is still claiming that he would defeat the opposition but seems to be reluctant to swiftly move ahead.


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