FeaturedNationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 14

Can Imran Khan survive a no-confidence move?

The opposition has decided to bring a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan after deliberations for many months. The opposition parties are so excited and congratulating each other for reaching a consensus on the issue as if they have already succeeded in ousting the government. It also shows they are aware of pitfalls involved in the process and not much optimistic about their success. If the no-confidence motion fails, it will also demoralize the opposition parties and strengthen the government.

Bringing a no-confidence motion was the idea of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) but the other main opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which has the most seats in the National Assembly after the government and its coalition partners, was averse to it because it could also create problems for it. It could create rifts in the party. Besides, many party legislators can defy their leadership. According to the opposition, up to 30 MNAs from the ruling party and its coalition partners are ready to support it. On the other hand, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid also claimed that the opposition’s 25-30 legislators would not turn up if a no-confidence motion was filed against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Bringing a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan could be wishful thinking of the opposition parties, especially the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which wants to oust the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government from the Centre and the biggest province of the country at any cost. The move appears to be just a stunt from the opposition parties, which are fighting against each other rather than the government.

As Prime Minister Imran Khan has dared the opposition many times to bring a no-confidence vote against him and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, the opposition parties behave as if they are doing a favour to him by not bringing the motion. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto blames the PML-N for the PTI governments remaining intact in the Centre and Punjab. He creates an impression that the PML-N is doing a favour to the PTI by not moving against it. On the other hand, the PML-N poses as if it can topple the government anytime but its leaders are against it because of their “principled stance.” Some media outlets affiliated to the party have ran stories many times that “change” will begin from Punjab and after the removal of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Prime Minister Imran Khan would also be voted out. However, ground realities show all stories are planted to give false hope to party legislators and supporters. If the PML-N had been in a position to oust the PTI, it would not have wasted even a second.

It appears the no-confidence move by the opposition parties aims to divert the attention of their supporters from their recent failures and rifts. The opposition alliance, Pakistan Democratic Movement, under Maulana Fazlur Rehman, started an anti-government movement with impressive public gatherings. It also won almost all by-polls and embarrassed the government with the victory of its candidate in the Senate for the Islamabad general seat, which forced Prime Minister Imran Khan to take a fresh vote of confidence from the National Assembly. However, the government turned the table on the opposition in the election for the Senate chairman and deputy chairman. The election sharpened rifts among the major component parties in the opposition. The government also defeated the opposition in the Senate in the passage of a key bill recently. The government narrowly managed to get the crucial State Bank of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill passed from the opposition-controlled Senate. The opposition’s strength of 57 members out of 100 failed to prevent the passage of the bill. At least eight opposition senators, including opposition leader Yusuf Raza Gilani, skipped the session, while at least four members of the Dilawar Khan-group voted in favour of the government bill. When Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin moved the motion to take up the bill for consideration, a rare tie was seen as both sides were locked at 43-43. But the number of the opposition lawmakers further dwindled to 42 when voting for the passage of the bill was carried out.

On paper, it appears impossible that the opposition will be able to bring a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Imran Khan. If the PML-N moves for it, it will backfire because the government is better equipped to foil it. On the other hand, when the opposition created an impression that Prime Minister Imran Khan had lost a majority in the National Assembly after the victory of Yusuf Raza Gilani, he bagged 178 votes in the 342-member National Assembly, two more than what he had received when he was elected the Prime Minister in 2018.

At the time, the biggest challenge to the government is from its inability to solve public issues, not the opposition. High prices and unemployment are the biggest issues facing the common people. The government has miserably failed to address them. In fact, it has compounded them with its inaction, inaptness and bad governance. It has completed almost four years of its term and it is still groping in the dark. It is disheartening to listen to the Prime Minister saying he needed many months to understand the issues of the country and people. He should have prepared himself for it when he was in the opposition. However, he still has time to improve his performance and solve public issues.