Will Imran Khan set a new precedent?
The no-confidence motion the opposition parties have tabled against Prime Minister Imran Khan has brought almost all activities in the country to a standstill, with all eyes focused on the likely outcome of the initiative, which though constitutional, is ill-timed and ill-advised.
Timelines for various steps involved in the exercise have been given in the constitution, but so far it is not possible for anyone to predict how long it will take the political skies to clear.
Parties like MQM, PML-Q, BAP and GDA, whose support enabled the PTI to get their majority and rule the country, have now decided to join hands with the opposition, but they are not announcing their verdict to be able to deal with any unforeseen situation in the near future.
Khan’s party has only 155 parliamentarians of its own and at least 172 are needed in the 342-member National Assembly to come to power.
Opposition parties which have 162 members of their own are at present claiming to have about 190 MPs with them, with the additional 28 belonging to the allies of the PTI or ‘defectors’ from it.
The fate of the PTI government will be decided when the National Assembly holds its special session. The session is expected to be held in the last week of the current month. However, the situation is unclear because the ruling party plans to raise some constitutional matters before the Supreme Court, a step that may lead to delaying the assembly proceedings. The NA speaker also may spring surprises by using his powers.
Whatever the case, because of the timing of the no-trust motion, the government will have to face an embarrassing situation as the OIC foreign ministers conference is scheduled to be held in Islamabad on March 22 and 23. It can be well imagined how the hosts, facing a no-trust motion, will be looked at by the foreign guests.
The no-trust motion at this juncture will also affect the preparation of the national budget for the next fiscal year (2022-23). The budget is presented in June but its preparation begins months before.
In the ongoing situation, it will not be possible for the government, which is fighting for its survival, to spare time and seriously think about relief that can be given to the people through the new budget.
One thing is very clear: If the no-trust motion succeeds, Imran Khan will be the first prime minister in the country’s history to be ousted through parliament; but if the move fails and he by some miracle, completes his mandated term, he will be the first to get this honor.
He took over as prime minister on August 13, 2018. This means he has already ruled the country for 43 months.
If Imran is allowed to complete the term, people at the time of the next elections will be in a better position to compare his performance with that of the PPP and the PML-N. A dissatisfied electorate may throw the PTI into the dustbin of history.
But if the no-trust motion succeeds, Imran Khan will go to public portraying himself as a political martyr. Also, as opposition leader he will try to give the new government a tough time.
In the ongoing situation, it will not be possible for the government, fighting for its survival, to spare time and think about the relief that can be given to the people through the new budget.
As of now, the opposition has not given the name of the man who will replace Khan, although flexes have appeared in Lahore, the political capital of the country, that Shehbaz Sharif will be the next prime minister and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, now the speaker of the Punjab Assembly, will be Punjab chief minister.
Even if Khan is ousted, his maiden term as chief executive of Pakistan will be longer than that of Benazir Bhutto, Mian Nawaz Sharif, Muhammad Khan Junejo – in fact, most of his predecessors.
In the past, no prime minister of Pakistan has ever completed his/her term. The PPP and the PML-N completed their respective tenures after the 2008 and 2013 elections, but they were shared by two premiers each.
Now, all political leaders must bear in mind that Pakistan is the only Islamic coutnry that is a nuclear power. They must not provide anyone with the opportunity to ridicule it. The political happenings these days will not strengthen democracy-- far from it.
- The writer is a senior and veteran journalist with a career spanning 40 years with major national and international newspapers.