As the No-Confidence Motion draws closer, Imran Khan seems to be running out of options
The Opposition needs at least 172 votes—as per the Constitution, “majority of total membership (342) of National Assembly ”—to carry the NCM through.These observations by judges have kept open the possibility that Constitutional provisions could be deliberately misinterpreted to suit the government. As per the Constitution, MNAs who vote against their party in a NCM will be de-seated, not disqualified. While the rebels can live with de-seating, any disqualification, either for a specific period or even for life, could compel them to not vote against the government. Imran will be hoping for such an outcome. But even if this was to happen, it won’t be of much help. The NCM can still be carried out with the support of the coalition partners of the government. Imran’s loyalists are, therefore, desperately trying to woo back the coalition partners, but don’t seem to be succeeding. While the court deliberates the reference moved by the government, Imran and his cronies (including the Speaker of National Assembly) are trying all kinds of tricks to buy time and delay what seems to be inevitable. The NA session on the NCM should ideally have been summoned on 21 March. The Speaker delayed calling the session until 25 March. On that day, he adjourned the session until 28 March. If the NCM is moved in the House on 28 March, then the voting can take place at the earliest is on 31 March and the latest is on 4 April. But there are reports that the Speaker could be toying with the idea of delaying the voting until after the Supreme Court gives its opinion on the government reference. Such a patently partisan and constitutionally untenable move could really lead to chaos and anarchy, not only in the House but also on the streets. The ‘Amr bil Maroof’ rally led by the PTI will take place on 27 March and the Opposition’s Long March will reach Islamabad on 28 March. The PTI rally is a show of force by Imran to intimidate the deserters and demonstrate his popularity. That the entire government machinery is being used to ensure a huge crowd is a ploy that has been used earlier by other rulers on their way out. Such rallies didn’t save them, nor is this rally likely to save Imran. There is a lot of talk of political tensions spilling over and clashes breaking out between the PTI rallyists and the Opposition supporters. If that happens, all hell will break lose and the military might find it difficult to continue pulling the strings of Pakistan's political puppet show from the sidelines.
The NA session on the NCM should ideally have been summoned on 21 March. The Speaker delayed calling the session until 25 March.Imran has also tried another tactic—move a Constitutional amendment to create a new South Punjab province. This is clearly a desperate, even laughable, ploy aimed more at building a political narrative for the future than saving the present. Given that Imran doesn’t even have a simple majority to save his government, it is impossible that he will be able to cobble together a two-thirds majority in both the NA and Senate, as well as in Punjab’s provincial assembly to create a new province. The Opposition is unlikely to feel pressured by this sneaky and cynical move. One rumour doing the rounds in Islamabad is that Imran’s ‘clairvoyant’ wife—Pinki Pirni—has done Istikhara and suggested that if the vote can be pushed to April, it could work in his favour. It was on her advice last October that Imran decided to sit on the transfer of the former ISI Chief and current Corps Commander Peshawar, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed. This was the tipping point, after which the military stopped propping up the ‘selected’ regime, or to use the evocative words of Pakistani politician Pervaiz Elahi: The “nappies were no longer being changed” and the child was asked to manage on his own.
Given that Imran doesn’t even have a simple majority to save his government, it is impossible that he will be able to cobble together a two-thirds majority in both the NA and Senate, as well as in Punjab’s provincial assembly to create a new province.At least twice in the past—Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Azadi March in 2019 and after the defeat of Imran’s candidate in the Senate elections in March 2021 forcing him to seek a vote of confidence—the Army pulled Imran’s chestnuts out of the fire. At that time, it was claimed that Imran had told his confidants that those who brought him in power (army) will ensure he stays in power, in part, because they have no one else to replace him with. But after the spat over the reshuffle and postings of top army officers last October, the army has turned ‘neutral’. Worse, it opened channels of communication with the Opposition. The result was the slow-burn collapse of the government. Just as Imran’s wife’s psychic powers fell flat back then, Imran would be tempting fate, and worse, by making his political moves on the basis of the crystal-ball gazing of his Pirni wife.
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Sushant Sareen is Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. His published works include: Balochistan: Forgotten War, Forsaken People (Monograph, 2017) Corridor Calculus: China-Pakistan Economic Corridor & China’s comprador ...Read More +