The game of power

The game of power

Synopsis

PTI stalwarts believe that the no-confidence motion against their chief will fall flat

The game of power
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The recent intense political meetings among opposition parties in the capital of country’s biggest province, may initiate a decisive political battle as there is a consensus among them to table a no-confidence motion in the Assembly against Imran Khan as early as possible. They believe that if the no-confidence motion succeeds, the government will fall and if it doesn’t succeed, the rough winds will start blowing and make the forthcoming election pretty much tough for Imran Khan.

Since after the mess in the Senate, where the missing members including the leader of the opposition Yousuf Raza Gilani, cost opposition the opportunity to block the State Bank Bill, the confidence level of opposition has gone down considerably and as such they have started a massive campaign to win over the major PTI allies including MQM and PML (Q). The outcome of their meetings is so far not encouraging; but they plan to continue their efforts.

PTI stalwarts, on the other hand, believe that they are in absolute command and the no-confidence motion against their chief will fall flat. The move against PM Imran Khan will prove just a farce and finally the opposition will end up in losing their face only to save it by announcing yet again a long march, which will never start. But then within the party there is a group which believes that Jahangir Tareen factor may play an important role in days to come. So there‘s a need to take this move rather seriously.

This feeling developed when the disgruntled leader of ruling PTI, Jahangir Tareen said that his ‘plane’ could take off in any direction even towards the PML-N camp and that his long-standing ties with Nawaz Sharif’s party would continue like before. Tareen, once considered one of the closest confidantes of Imran Khan, made these remarks when asked by a reporter about the possibility of joining the PML (N) ranks. Tareen has launched a group of like-minded lawmakers in the lower house of parliament as well as the Punjab Assembly and their support is very important for PTI to block the no-confidence motion.

No-confidence motion is a part of democracy and as we know democracy is described as counting the heads but not in determining what the head contains. This is the flaw afflicting the system and plays havoc time and again on governments and governance. The recent case in point is the passage of State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill 2021 amid an outcry from the opposition on suffering back-to-back defeats in the House, where it otherwise enjoys a dominating numerical strength. So PTI can’t afford to depend always on numerical strength which is because of its allies and of course Tareen group.

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So the possibility of ousting Imran Khan through no confidence motion cannot be ruled out. Because on the one hand, Jahangir Tareen is waiting for an opportunity to avenge his abuse and on the other hand, more than half of the PTI MNAs are ready to jump out of the ship. Moreover, price hike and inflation, to a great extent, has reduced the PTI vote bank. As such PTI has to do a lot to regain its lost support.

To defuse the political explosion the PTI has now decided to launch a major image building effort, using ‘Brand Imran’ to lift its sinking political fortunes by organising public meetings to be addressed in various cities, by Imran Khan himself with a view to mobilise PTI supporters. PTI thinks re-launching of ‘Brand Imran’ can win over the voters, who have been heavily affected by the dire economic conditions under the PTI’s rule, through their direct interaction with the PM. However, the results of the forthcoming LB polls in Punjab will tell us all about the successful re-launch of ‘Brand Imran’.

One can say without any fear of contradiction that if the opposition is really serious then the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan can easily succeed but for that Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have to create an atmosphere of trust which they have not been able to create yet. But now it seems that efforts to pass the no-confidence motion have been intensified as Zardari, co-chairman of the PPP, the second largest opposition party and former president, met the leaders of the PML(Q), a coalition party of the PTI government, over dinner and the PML (N) leader Shahbaz met the MQM leaders in Raiwind to win their support.

According to Prof. Rasool Bakhsh Raees, an expert on political affairs, the government is definitely in a weak position due to the coalition parties. If the PML (Q) and MQM join the opposition, the government will fail to retain a majority in parliament, risking the loss of position as the ruling party. As a result new elections will have to be held. And it’s also a fact that these parties have no ideological affiliation with the PTI and as such they can leave the party any time they want.

In case the opposition succeeds in removing Imran Khan through a no-confidence motion they would have to provide an alternative government under the constitution. After the no-confidence motion, the ball will be in the court of the President of Pakistan, Dr. Arif Alvi, and as per rule the President will invite the second largest political party, the PML (N) to form the government. Parliament can also suggest dissolution, after which new elections will have to be held.

According to political analysts the chances of passing the no-confidence motion are fifty-fifty. They say, it’s not easy to win the no-confidence motion against the government. A serious attempt to remove the government through a no-confidence motion was made three decades ago during Benazir Bhutto’s tenure as prime minister, but it failed. Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto survived the November 1, 1989 vote of no-confidence moved by Nawaz Sharif and his Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI). The no-confidence motion was rejected by a 12-vote margin, ending a challenge that had threatened to unseat Pakistan’s first fully civilian Government.

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No-confidence motion has never been passed even in world’s biggest democracy. In India 26 no-confidence motions were moved in its parliamentary history. A record 15 no-confidence motions were moved against former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. There were three each against the governments headed by Lal Bahadur Shastri and P V Narasimha Rao followed by Moraraji Desai and Atal Bihari Vajpayee who faced two each. Barring one no-confidence motion, which remained inconclusive, all the motions in the past were defeated.

Imran Khan also sought vote of confidence from the lower house of parliament, following a surprise electoral defeat on a Senate seat. The prime minister received 178 votes, reposing confidence in his leadership in the 342-member National Assembly. Imran Khan obtained the vote of confidence from the National Assembly to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly as the prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

There is definitely a democratic procedure to remove the Prime Minister from his office in the constitution if he loses confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly. In this respect a resolution for a vote of no-confidence is moved by not less than 20 percent of the total membership of the National Assembly. But in Pakistan not a single prime minister was removed through a no-confidence motion.

However, the sad fact remains that not a single prime minister in Pakistan has been allowed to complete his tenure since the independence. That’s why as soon as the political situation starts becoming tense people start speculating a sudden change in the country. Four times democratically elected governments were sent packing by military dictators. One prime minister was assassinated while many were sent home by presidents and one was dismissed by the Supreme Court.

On October 16, 1951, Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in Rawalpindi’s Company Bagh during a public meeting of the Muslim City League. Zulfikar All Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, was hanged on April 4, 1979. The decision to hang Bhutto was made by Gen. Zia despite a flood of petitions for executive clemency from dozens of world leaders and thousands of Pakistani citizens who admired Bhutto’s policies and his ability to communicate with the masses.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was murdered on 27th December, 2007, after addressing an election rally in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh. Even after 14 years the mystery behind the murder could not be solved, and the case is still pending in the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) Rawalpindi bench. Even PPP during its five-year tenure failed to pursue this important case. Later, the case was partially disposed of during the tenure of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

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According to reports, the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan is likely to be brought this month, not March or May. The PML-N made preparations for the in-house reshuffle in February, and in this regard the opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif has also completed his homework, and the PML(N) leader Nawaz Sharif has also given full permission to Shahbaz Sharif for no-confidence.

PML-N sources said that Shahbaz Sharif has made Plan A and Plan B to make the no-confidence motion a success, and there is a strong possibility of bringing a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan this month. This has been done after backdoor contacts with government allies and opposition leaders.

Sources said that Shahbaz Sharif will take Maulana Fazlur Rehman into confidence before the PDM summit in this regard, and the number of contacts with government allies and PPP, government allies and angry members of PTI in the meeting. While giving a briefing on the no-confidence motion, he will propose a no-confidence motion this month, while after final approval at the PDM summit, Shahbaz Sharif will initiate practical steps on the no-confidence motion.

Though the chances of Imran Khan’s ouster, at least through no-confidence motion is very slim, all those familiar with the chequered history of Pakistani politics are obviously worried about what lies ahead as not a single prime minister in Pakistan was able to complete his term.

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