FeaturedNationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 17

Consequences of no-confidence move against Imran Khan

As opposition political parties descended upon the federal capital in huge rallies to bring a no-confidence motion against the government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Prime Minister Imran Khan and his party leaders also resorted to big public gatherings making the political environment of the country stupendously charged. The opposition parties including their umbrella organisation, Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), backed by the Pakistan People’s Party and the Awami National Party (ANP), have submitted a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan in the National Assembly. It is premature to predict whether the opposition would be able to dislodge the PTI government or not but the consequences of the colossal political activity for the country would be immensely dangerous.

Insofar as the prospect of the success of the no-confidence motion against PM Imran Khan in the National Assembly is concerned, it has a fifty-fifty chance. Historically, never a no-confidence motion against a sitting government has been successful in the parliament of Pakistan. This is because the government has much to offer in terms of power and perks to its estranged allies, own party members of parliament and opposition MPs. However, the problem with Prime Minister Imran Khan and the PTI is that they have at least four coalition partners with a few seats and the government has been in power because of the support of the allies. Otherwise the PTI on its own is well short of a majority. Moreover, even with the support of its allies the government has only 180 members’ backing in the National Assembly, just eight more than a simple majority in the House. The problems of Imran Khan and the PTI have been made more complex by one of its factions, the Jahangir Khan Tareen group, which has the support of at least 12-15 Members of the National Assembly. The group, which was instrumental in enabling Imran Khan get a majority in the NA after the July 2018 national elections, is unhappy with the Prime Minister and his government after action was taken against Jahangir Tareen’s sugar mills for being allegedly involved in hoarding sugar so as to artificially increase its price in the country. Now the fate of Imran Khan’s government depends upon not only continued support from the four coalition partners, but also all of its own MPs besides the country’s policy-makers. It will be a tough task for the government to get the continued support of all the political and non-political players. The only option with the government is to create a forward bloc within the main opposition parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), in the National Assembly and get the support of its members. However, it requires a Herculean effort by the PTI government, which would be more difficult given the nature of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who loves fighting and remaining in a defiant mood even though he is in the government.

Whatever the result of the vote of no-confidence against PM Imran Khan, the consequences of it would be long-term and profound for the political culture, specifically democracy of Pakistan. In case the vote of no-confidence gets through the National Assembly, it would be very difficult for the opposition parties to form a government. The foremost reason is that the opposition parties are ethnically, ideologically and politically divided and have a history of fighting against each other in political, legal arenas and behind the scenes. Even large-scale non-political tactics and antics have been used by the opposition parties against each other in the past, particularly the PML-N and the PPP. The biggest question would be the selection of the nominee for the position of Prime Minister. Obviously, the PML-N with the largest number of opposition MPs and also holding the position of the Leader of the Opposition in NA would lay claim to the slot. Whether the PPP would accept it? Even if the opposition parties after dislodging the PTI government agree upon the name of the next Prime Minister, the composition of the cabinet would be a contentious issue. A lot of bargaining would take place only to form a new government and what to say of its stability. In this bargaining, state resources would be spent on personal political interests of the opposition parties.

However, bringing a no-confidence vote against the Prime Minister is the constitutional right of the opposition parties, whenever they feel they have a majority to dislodge the government. Generally, in a strong Western democracy if a vote of no-confidence is successful, then it contributes to political stability and democratic consolidation in the country. However, the objective situation in Pakistan is that the country’s political parties are not mature enough to agree upon and form the government to pull the country out of crisis and address the core issues. In this context, even a successful vote of no-confidence in Pakistan would not bring desirable political stability. Nevertheless, the process of no-confidence motion against the PTI government would indeed have some wholesome effects on society, people as well as the political arena. The headstrong PM Imran Khan is perhaps for the first time feeling the heat and facing the music of his three and a half years of poor governance that has made the life of the common Pakistani really miserable. The vote of no-confidence politics, in other words, is making PM Imran Khan and his government realise that running the affairs of the country is a gigantic task and merely raising slogans and resorting to rhetoric to bring corrupt politicians to justice and recover looted national wealth could not address the issues of people and fulfill their aspirations.

In case the no-confidence motion fails, it will give the present dispensation a new lease of life and one could expect that it would complete its constitutional tenure of five years without any further interruption. It would definitely add to political stability in the country provided the PTI government improves its performance. But with a very thin majority in the National Assembly and even short of a majority in the Senate of Pakistan, the PTI coalition government could not pass even important legislation. Good governance cannot be demonstrated in a vacuum, it needs complete support of the parliament particularly in the form of much-needed legislation. However, a government without a comfortable majority in the parliamentary chambers is merely a government in name only and is of no good use. This is the unfortunate reality of the current parliamentary political system of Pakistan. If the country wants political stability, then the parliamentary political system should be done away with and replaced with the presidential system of government which is more suited to the social and economic realities of Pakistan.