NationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 2

No-confidence vote: Opposition’s new stunt

The opposition is planning to bring a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. It is 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 motion 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 may 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. Pakistan Peoples Party 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 stores 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. People are told only PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif is against it because he thinks the time is not right and “unelected” elements would benefit from the situation. 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 vote is a new idea of the opposition parties 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 opposition alliance had planned to launch an anti-government “long march” on March 26, but it was postponed because the PPP was not willing to resign from assemblies and other allies believed the protest would be ineffective without en bloc resignations. The PML-N also thinks the PPP has benefitted from the PDM struggle, while it could not make substantial gains from it, except winning a few by-elections. On the other hand, the PPP leadership believes the PML-N wanted to use its resignations for the personal benefits of its leaders.

The opposition alliance appears to have lost steam, but it still can mount pressure on the government by holding a “long march,” which can even last for a few days. However, the PPP may avoid it because it has never been in its favour for many reasons. Some analysts believe Fazlur Rehman is acting on an offensive policy against national institutions to extract some space for himself and other opposition parties. The PML-N and the PPP chose Fazlur Rehman as their leader for his ability to use religion in politics. He is the true representative of the ideology of Nawaz Sharif. Like Nawaz Sharif, he has no stake in the system and no fear to lose. He wants to use all options for his political gains. He will continue to target national institutions to achieve his political ambitions because he thinks it is the only option left for him.

It appears the opposition’s protest movement will not be able to force the government to step down and hold fresh elections. On the other hand, Senate elections have taken place and the PTI has become the largest party in the House, displacing the PML-N. It has also solved the ruling party’s problem to pass laws in the Upper House, which was earlier controlled by the opposition. The government may not have won a majority in the Senate, but it is in a position now to call sessions of both Houses together to pass laws, which it has not been able to do since its installation. In this way, Prime Minister Imran Khan can reform the system and improve governance.

On paper, it appears impossible that the opposition will be able to bring a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Imran Khan or Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar. If the PML-N moves for it, it will backfire because dozens of its legislators openly meet the chief minister. Many more will vote against the party line if voting is held. 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 was elected the Prime Minister in 2018.

At the time, the biggest challenge to the government comes 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 inaptness and bad governance. It has completed three 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 two years to improve his performance and serve people.