Opposition power after treasury shocker

197 MNAs show no-trust in PM symbolic session after deputy speaker declares motion unconstitutional

Rizwan Shehzad April 03, 2022
Opposition lawmakers present inside National Assembly hall ahead of the no-trust vote. Screengrab


A hundred and ninety-seven parliamentarians voted against Imran Khan in a symbolic session of the National Assembly on Sunday, minutes after Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri disallowed voting on the opposition's no confidence motion and adjourned the session on the pretext of foreign conspiracy.

The lower house was set to hold the vote with the numbers heavily in favour of the motion, when Suri, chairing the session in the absence of Speaker Asad Qaiser, declared the motion “unconstitutional”. The deputy speaker then prorogued the house but opposition members stayed in the hall and held the symbolic session with former speaker and senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) parliamentarian Ayaz Sadiq in the chair.

Statistically, the no-confidence motion required 172 votes for its passage by the house. For the past few days the opposition had been saying that its numbers were complete. Even in the previous National Assembly session, the opposition said that 175 members supporting the motion were present in the house.

It appeared at the outset of the session on Sunday that the opposition was going to win. When the motion was moved in the symbolic session, in which no treasury member was present, a whopping 197 voted in favour of the no-confidence motion.

While the opposition lawmakers were busy in the symbolic session, the lights of the assembly hall were switched off but were restored after a few minutes. The move was aimed at countering the treasury benches, who hurriedly left the hall after the deputy speaker gave his ruling.

Minutes earlier, Suri “rejected” the no-confidence motion, saying that it was backed by a foreign state – the US – therefore, it was “unconstitutional” under Article 5 of the Constitution. He then prorogued that the session without the vote on the motion. The deputy speaker noted in his ruling that “the circumstances show” that there was a nexus between the no-trust motion against the prime minister, foreign intervention and the activities of the state’s representatives deputed to Pakistan. His ruling came with an admission that the matter required a thorough investigation by an appropriate authority under the law as no probe had so far been conducted, except that the issue had been discussed at different forums.

When the session began, the chair, while agreeing with the treasury benches that the motion was a ‘product of foreign interference’, quickly ruled that “it is now clear that there has been blatant foreign interference in the internal affairs” of Pakistan. “And there exists a close nexus between such foreign interference and the campaign to oust and remove the democratically-elected government headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan through different means, including the motion for no-confidence initiated on 8-3-2022,” he added.

Giving reasons for his ruling, Suri stated that the motion against the prime minister was apparently linked with and had clear nexus with the efforts of the foreign state to bring about a change of government, therefore it could not be allowed to be voted upon.

In addition, he noted that the fundamental existential issue should be clearly settled first, leaving no doubt or taint of external interference or collusion of the Pakistani citizens, including few members of the National Assembly.

However, without any investigation, he admitted, if such a motion was entertained and allowed to succeed in the garb of parliamentary process and a foreign country was able to achieve its goal to oust a democratically-elected government or PM, “we shall cease to be an independent and sovereign country governed by the Constitution and the laws”.

“I, as the Deputy Speaker and custodian of the House and bound by the oath taken by me under the Constitution of Pakistan to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution cannot remain indifferent or act as unconcerned spectator let alone be instrumental in this unconstitutional act of change of Government and/or Prime Minister orchestrated by a foreign state,” Suri stated.

He added that the present motion of no-confidence, being the very essence of the internal proceedings of the house, “cannot be entertained or allowed by me to proceed in these circumstances and has to be disallowed” and accordingly rejected. Speaker Asad Qaiser later concurred with Suri and signed the ruling.

As Suri passed the ruling and prorogued the session, the government members gathered around his desk and started shouting slogans against the opposition and the United States. Slogans like “America’s friends are Pakistan’s traitors” were continuously raised by the treasury benches even when the Information and Law Minister Fawad Chaudhry took the floor to speak.

Chaudhry termed the no-confidence motion a “foreign conspiracy” to change the regime in Pakistan, saying that it was the right of the lawmakers to move a resolution for vote of no-confidence against the prime minister under Article 95 of the Constitution under normal circumstances.

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However, Chaudhry implied that the circumstances were not normal as he pointed out that Pakistani diplomat met with the officials of the foreign state and was informed about the intention of the state against Imran. “We were told that the relationship [of the foreign power] with Pakistan depended on the outcome of the success of no-confidence motion,” Chaudhry told the house.

Chaudhry said that it was also stated that everything would be forgiven if the no-trust vote succeeds, adding that Pakistan was told things would become difficult if the motion failed. “Unfortunately, attempts are being made to change the regime at the behest of external forces,” he claimed.

While referring to Article 5 of the Constitution, which provides that it is the basic duty of every citizen to show the loyalty to the state, Chaudhry said that the matter of the no-confidence motion had become a subject matter of Article 5.

“Is the state of 220 million so weak that external forces change the governments,” he said. “Can a regime be changed...are the people of Pakistan puppets, do we have no status…are we slaves”. He urged the speaker to give a ruling on Article 5, which he did and rejected the motion.

No-trust against speaker

Also on Sunday, the joint opposition submitted a no-confidence motion against Speaker Asad Qaiser hours before the voting on the no-confidence motion. The resolution was submitted by PML-N MNA Murtaza Javed Abbasi to the National Assembly Secretariat, seeking his removal from the office.

The PML-N leader’s notice stipulated that the speaker should be removed from office under Article 53 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan with Rule 12 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, 2007.

Abbasi further requested the assembly secretary that as per sub-rules (1) and (2) of Rule 12, the notice must be circulated to all members of the National Assembly, and tabled within seven working days.

The opposition is not happy with the speaker regarding his attitude towards the usual legislative business, especially the no-confidence motion tabled against the prime minister, in the National Assembly.


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