STATE TIMES NEWS
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan appeared confident of winning a trust vote in the National Assembly on Saturday even as the ruling party has warned rebels that those who vote against him would be disqualified.
Khan, 68, decided to take a vote of confidence in the lower house of Parliament after his finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh was defeated in the closely-fought Senate election on Wednesday. The Opposition demanded the Prime Minister’s resignation after the debacle.
The floor test will take place without the Opposition as the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) on Friday decided to boycott the vote of confidence on Khan’s government.
The special National Assembly (NA) session has been convened on the directives of President Arif Alvi.
According to the National Assembly Secretariat, the session is being held today on the one-point agenda of the Prime Minister’s vote of confidence, and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will table a resolution in the House on which voting will be held.
A total of 172 votes in the 342-member House was needed for a simple majority. The ruling coalition had 181 members but its strength has reduced to 180 after the resignation of one of its lawmakers, Faisal Vowda. The Opposition coalition has 160 members in the House.
Khan is the second Prime Minister in the country’s history after Nawaz Sharif in 1993 to voluntarily seek a vote of confidence in the NA, Geo news reported.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has 157 members in the National Assembly and has the support of more than 180 members including those of its allies, according to minister for science Fawad Chaudhry.
The Express Tribune quoted Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed as saying that Prime Minister Khan would get the vote of confidence and would start a new political life after the vote.
The 10-party Opposition alliance, PDM has announced to boycott the session, making it easier for Khan to secure the required numbers.
“No member of the PDM will participate in tomorrow’s National Assembly session,” JUI-F and PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had said on Friday.
He said that their candidate’s triumph in the Senate election was itself a moral victory against the premier.
The announcement from the PDM came after Prime Minister Khan addressed the nation on Thursday, explaining why he was seeking a vote of confidence in the wake of the Senate elections in which the Opposition managed to stage an upset.
PDM candidate and former prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani defeated PTI candidate Shaikh on Wednesday, in a major blow to Khan, who had personally campaigned for his Cabinet colleague.
Prime Minister Khan chaired a meeting of parliamentary parties at the Prime Minister House (PMH) on Friday in which all Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) of the ruling alliance were asked to vote for the prime minister otherwise they can be disqualified, Dawn news reported.
Khan hoped that all lawmakers of the ruling alliance would vote for him, as all of them present in the meeting have assured him of their support.
During the meeting, Defence Minister Pervez Khattak gave a briefing on the relevant rules and articles of the Constitution and warned those who would give votes against the prime minister that they would be de-seated, Dawn newspaper reported.
According to a Cabinet member, 175 lawmakers of the ruling coalition attended the parliamentary party meeting at PMH after a lunch was given by Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar at Punjab House to PTI women legislators. Later, a dinner was also given to them by Foreign Minister Qureshi.
Khan also held separate meetings with leaders of the ruling coalition partners. All allied parties — Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) pledged their support to him.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s election commission on Friday expressed shock and disappointment over Prime Minister Khan’s allegations against it, asserting that the Senate elections were held as per the Constitution and it has “never come under any sort of pressure and God willing, will not in future as well.”
The strong comments were made by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in a statement following a crucial meeting summoned by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja to review Khan’s statements against it on Thursday.
Prime Minister Khan had said: “You (ECP) discredited democracy you damaged the morality of the nation by doing nothing to stop vote-buying .
In its response, the ECP said, “this is the beauty of democracy and independent elections and the secret ballot which the entire nation witnessed, which was according to the Constitution.”
Rejecting Khan’s allegations, the commission added: “We cannot ignore the law and the Constitution to please anyone”.