ISLAMABAD: A key Pakistani parliament session to debate a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan was adjourned to April 3, minutes after it began on Thursday.
Khan, a former cricket star, is facing his toughest political challenge since assuming office in 2018 as the opposition tabled a no-confidence motion against him in the National Assembly on Monday, amid accusations he has mismanaged the economy and governed poorly.
While a vote on the motion is to be held within seven days of its tabling, Khan has already lost his majority in parliament after a key government ally said on Wednesday they had struck a deal with the opposition and subsequently quit Khan’s ruling coalition.
Thursday's National Assembly session was suspended by Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri after he opened the floor for questions but opposition leaders insisted instead that he call for the no-trust vote.
“I think nobody is interested in the question hour, therefore the house is adjourned till Sunday," Suri said amid chants "go Imran go."
Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former prime minister and current lawmaker from the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, told Arab News after the announcement that the deputy speaker was "playing a partisan role."
"They have time till Sunday to conduct the voting,” he added.
During Thursday's session, the opposition alliance had on its side 175 lawmakers in the 342-member National Assembly, or three votes more than the number required to topple Khan’s administration.
The joint opposition alliance said it would not allow Khan to escape the no-trust vote.
“There is no safe passage or backdoor passage for Khan now,” Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, said during a press conference with other opposition leaders. “We have proved our majority in the house."
Shehbaz Sharif, leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, rejected any possibility of withdrawing the not-trust motion against the prime minister.
“The prime minister has left with no legal and moral authority to cling to his position after we have shown 175 members in the house,” he said.
The opposition alliance has nominated Sharif, president of the PML-N, for the coveted premiership slot after Khan’s exit.
The speaker of the National Assembly has to carry out the vote no sooner than three days and no later than seven days after the motion is tabled. The vote must take place by April 4.