No-trust motion: NA session to decide PM Imran’s fate begins shortly

After what can perhaps be called the longest week in Pakistani politics in recent history, the National Assembly is set to meet today for a second time to decide the fate of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Voting on the no-confidence motion against the prime minister is on the day’s agenda and the session is scheduled to begin at 10:30am, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s directives. Earlier this week, the apex court set aside Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri’s April 3 ruling that dismissed the no-trust motion against the premier and the subsequent dissolution of the assembly.

Lawmakers began arriving at Parliament House ahead of the session while television footage showed tight security arrangements in place in the capital. The united opposition also held a meeting of its parliamentary group which was chaired by PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif.

The opposition needs the support of at least 172 lawmakers from a total of 342 to oust the premier through the no-trust move.

So far, it is unclear who will be chairing the session as the opposition has also filed no-trust motions against Speaker Asad Qaiser and Suri.

Experts insist though a no-trust motion has been moved against Speaker Asad Qaisar, he could preside over the house. In their opinion, the rules only bar Qaiser from presiding over a session where the no-trust against him is being considered, and he would be able to chair today’s proceedings.

Despite the impression that the PTI has lost its majority in the lower house, the ruling party is still adamant that it would not leave the field open for the opposition and has vowed to make things as difficult for them as they can, be it creating hurdles in the voting procedure or preventing the election of opposition nominee Shehbaz Sharif as the new leader of the house.

Ahead of the session, on Friday, PM Imran had presided over a meeting of the party’s parliamentary group.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has said the government would present the “threatening’” cable — purportedly containing evidence of a foreign plot against the government — or its contents in the assembly and will ask the speaker for a debate on the issue.

Speaking to ARY News on Friday night, he was of the opinion that even though the vote of no confidence was on the agenda, voting would likely not take place today. He said that while the SC had instructed voting to be held in the session called on April 9, that didn’t mean it would have to be on the same date.

No-trust motion commotion

The joint opposition — primarily the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and the PPP — had submitted the no-confidence motion against the premier with the NA Secretariat on March 8.

In the days to follow, the country’s political landscape was abuzz with activity as parties and individuals changed alliances and the PTI and opposition were seen trading barbs and allegations alongside intensifying efforts to ensure their success in the no-confidence contest.

Eventually, major allies of the ruling PTI — Balochistan Awami Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan — deserted the government and joined the opposition ranks which led to PM Imran losing his majority in the lower house of parliament.

In addition, over a dozen PTI dissident MNAs have already come into the open with their criticism on the government policies, indicating that they might support the opposition’s no-trust motion even at the cost of being disqualified as NA members.

For its part, the PTI has managed to secure the support of another one of its key allies, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), as Usman Buzdar stepped down as the Punjab chief minister in favor of the PML-Q’s Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who the ruling party announced as its candidate for the province’s new chief executive.

However, one of the many twists in the saga emerged when PM Imran claimed to have evidence of a “foreign conspiracy” to oust his government. At the PTI’s rally on March 27, the premier had pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket and waved it at the crowd, claiming it was evidence of an “international conspiracy” being hatched to topple his government.

The PTI accused the opposition of being part of the foreign plot and tried to turn the tide in its favour by disclosing some of the details in the “threat letter” to journalists and lawmakers.

Separately, after a few delays, the National Assembly finally convened on April 3 to vote on the no-trust motion against the premier. In a “surprise” move, the opposition submitted a similar motion against the speaker which led to the deputy speaker chairing the session.

However, the PTI would prove to be five steps ahead of the opposition as Suri dismissed the motion, saying it was part of a foreign conspiracy to oust PM Imran, after Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry spoke on a point of order, citing Article 5 of the Constitution, which mandates loyalty to the state for every citizen.

Within minutes of the pandemonium that broke out, PM Imran appeared on television to announce that he had advised the president to dissolve the lower house of parliament and called on the people to prepare for fresh elections.

The government’s move also led to the Supreme Court taking suo motu notice of the deputy speaker’s ruling with Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial stating that all orders and actions initiated by the prime minister and president regarding the dissolution of the National Assembly would be subject to the court’s order. Meanwhile, opposition parties also filed pleas questioning the legality of Suri’s ruling.

What followed were five days of marathon hearings where the court heard arguments from the government and the opposition. At the same time, the PTI began its preparations for the next elections, insisting on the existence of a foreign conspiracy behind the no-confidence motion.

On Thursday night, the apex court — in a historic ruling — set aside Suri’s ruling and the subsequent dissolution of the assembly by the president on the PM’s advice, with all five judges unanimously voting 5-0 against it.

The court’s verdict also restored the prime minister and his cabinet in their position and directed for the session of the National Assembly to reconvene on Saturday (today) no later than 10:30am. saying that the session cannot be prorogued without the conclusion of the no-trust motion against PM Imran.