Imran ousted in no-confidence vote

— 174 opposition MPs vote in favour of motion

— Shehbaz terms Khan’s removal as ‘start of a new era’

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly early hours of Sunday voted to show no trust in Prime Minister Imran Khan with a majority vote, removing him from office.

The National Assembly Hall resounded with political sloganeering as the workers and lawmakers of PML-N, JUI-F, PPP and other parties which delayed the announcement of the result of no-trust vote.

As many as 174 lawmakers of the joint opposition voted against Imran Khan who became the first-ever sitting premier to be ousted as Leader of the House. Those who voted included lawmakers from PML-N, PPP, JUI-F, BAP, MQM, PML-Q and others. PTI dissidents did not vote.

The lawmakers of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) boycotted the session, leaving behind state minister for parliamentary affairs, Ali Mohammad Khan, to observe the voting.

The National Assembly secretariat issued an agenda according to which the House would elect new leader of the House on Monday while the papers would be accepted today.

Minutes before voting started, Prime Minister Imran Khan left Prime Minister’s Office and left for his home in Banigala after meeting his staff and Cabinet members.  Principal Secretary to PM Azam Khan has been transferred and directed to report to the Establishment Division.

Priorly, Imtran Khan remain defiant all the day and took several moves that created a situation of uncertainty.

Throughout the day, Khan kept taking various moves, sending signals of defiance to the all and sundry. However, the resignation of Speaker NA in last moments finally broke the stalemate and brought an end to the uncertainty.

After the vote, Shehbaz Sharif, the candidate for the slot of Leader of the House of the new ruling coalition, expressed gratitude to his allies.

He said it was dawn of a new era which was due to the struggle of the nation. He lauded the efforts of the leaders of the united opposition including Asif Zardari, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Bilawal Zardari and others.

Petition filed to put Imran Khan’s name in ECL

A petition was filed with Islamabad High Court to put the names of Imran Khan and his cabinet members in the Exit Control List (ECL) for putting the country’s interest into jeopardy. Other names included former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Fawad Chaudhry, Sheikh Rasheed and others. The petitioner also requested the court to also put the name of Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan in the ECL.

Speaker, deputy resign

Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaisar, chairing the session late at night at around 11:52 pm, said that he was under oath and could not compromise on national interest and hence had decided to tender resignation from his office.

He said that the Prime Minister’s office had shared with him documents about the US threats and he had decided to step down. He said that he had been with Prime Minister Imran Khan since past 26 years and he would stand by his party. He said it was the question of honour and sovereignty of the nation and he had decided to step down.

Later, he asked Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, who was member of panel of chairmen, to chair the session and carry forward the process of no confidence vote. Ayaz Sadiq took the chair and lauded the services of the Speaker Asad Qaisar and started voting process.

Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan also resigned from his office.

SC, IHC open late night      

Sources told media that Supreme Court Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial ordered staff to open the court premises at 1200 hours on Sunday to review the implementation status of the court verdict over the no trust vote. Later, Justice Bandial himself arrived at the court to hold proceedings at 1200 hours.

Moreover, Islamabad High Court also reportedly was opened to entertain a petition to stop Prime Minister Khan from sacking Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

NA session adjourned four times

Speaker Asad Qaiser has adjourned the crucial National Assembly session, which commenced at 10.30pm on Friday morning, till 9:30pm for the fourth time. The all-important session of the lower house of parliament was summoned on Supreme Court’s directives to hold voting on no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The joint opposition has lodged an official complaint with the NA speaker, urging him not to further delay the voting on no-confidence motion against the prime minister. They said all authorities concerned including him were guilty of “gross contempt and liable to punishment in accordance with law”.

Earlier, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addressing the house alleged that Prime Minister Imran was seeking military intervention in the country’s political affairs by delaying voting on no-confidence motion and to create a constitutional crisis.

Major leaders from both opposition and treasury benches including federal ministers — Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, Shireen Mazari and PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif, PPP Chairman Bilawal, and former president Asif Zardari among others delivered speeches.

Addressing the house, Bilawal said that the NA speaker is committing contempt of court and abrogating the Constitution.

The five-member bench of the Supreme Court has given an order and no agenda item can be raised except the order of the day, he added.

On April 3, Bilawal said their minister had trapped the PM, president and deputy-speaker in “abrogation of the Constitution”.

“It is their conspiracy to either let selections take place without electoral reforms or to create a crisis so big that it results in dictatorship and a military rule. They want to end democracy because as long as it is present, Imran Khan’s politics cannot be saved,” he remarked.

Bilawal demanded of the speaker to follow the court’s orders warning him that he will be disqualified over the contempt of court. “This is not the first time in Pakistan that a speaker’s ruling has been thrown by the court. In the past too, a speaker sitting in the same chair had given a ruling which was then done away with through a suo-moto notice. The court has ordered for the process of April 3 to be completed and voting has to take place.

Taking to Twitter, Bilawal said the PTI government and its speaker continues to commit contempt by refusing to even start agenda of the day as ordered by the court. He said the Constitution also mandates vote on no-confidence today.

“While running away from the vote, Imran Khan has violated the Constitution again… [we] will not leave NA until our vote,” he wrote on his official handle.

In another tweet, the PPP chairman said the ongoing debate in the lower house was illegal since it was not part of agenda on April 3, when NA session on no-confidence voting was prorogued.

“Clearly malafide 10:30am agenda is yet to start. Speaker ignores demands to implement court order. Calling cabinet meeting at 9pm shows clear intent not to vote today… collusion between PM and Speaker is clear.”

Before Bilawal, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that, “The opposition was invited to speak, if they believe the communiqué does not exist we will put forth proof.” Qureshi was referring to the alleged foreign conspiracy to topple the PTI-led government.

The foreign minister added that, “We have not said no to the voting, we want the evidence to be examined before the vote is taken. Horse trading, golden dreams shown for switching sides, the question is whether this was constitutional?”

He said the PTI knocked the ECP’s doors for a year, trying to prove how votes were bought. “Despite presenting it with evidence, justice was yet to be done,” the foreign minister stated.

Qureshi said that attempts for a ‘regime change’ had been exposed. “We are here today, but will not be tomorrow… those bigger than us have been removed. But history will unmask them,” he added.

“My prime minister told the nation that it has to now decide whether it wishes to live freely or enslaved,” he said.

Speaking of PM Imran’s visit to Russia, Qureshi said the visit came on the latter’s invitation and all institutions decided that it would be for the betterment of Pakistan.

“Pakistan is a sovereign state, but they [opposition] want it to be a slave,” the foreign minister said, further claiming that the US national security adviser called on Pakistan’s NSA and told him not to visit Russia.

“Where does one sovereign state tell another to not go on foreign visit,” he asked.

“We wanted to go and give our own perspective on the Ukraine crisis and advocate diplomacy because we do not want lives to be lost. Pakistan is a country that believes in diplomacy, in self-determination; we have never believed in the threat of force,” the foreign minister added.

The foreign minister went on to insinuate that there was more to India’s missile ‘malfunction’, asking if the nation did not want answers regarding the incident.

Earlier in the day, as the session began, the speaker announced to start the question hour session but had to stop when Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif took the floor on point of order and made a small speech reminding the speaker that he was bound to go ahead as per the top court’s order.

Shehbaz said that the chair’s unconstitutional steps were set aside and the doctrine of necessity was buried by the top court. During his speech, the government side kept interrupting by constantly speaking and kept calling to him a “beggar” — a tacit reference to his recent statement where he said “beggars can’t be choosers”.

Speaker NA briefly interrupted him by saying that he will proceed as per the SC directions but discuss the foreign conspiracy as well. To this, Shehbaz again reminded the speaker that the SC order has bound him to take up the agenda item pertaining to voting on the no-confidence motion.

“You cannot deviate from this.”

Speaker Qaiser responded that the court’s decision will be implemented in true spirit before giving floor to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

‘History full of constitutional violations’

Taking the floor after the opposition leader, Qureshi said Prime Minister Imran Khan has accepted the decision of the Supreme Court but was ‘disappointed’.

Qureshi admitted that the no-trust motion was constitutional but argued that it was as much the opposition’s right to present the motion as the treasury benches’ right to defend it.

“I want to say from my party that the opposition has a right to present the no-trust motion and it is my right to contest it. We should debate this constitutionally.”

Disappointed but accept the decision, Qureshi quoted PM Imran as saying during his speech last night, adding the speaker was proceeding ahead with the SC order.

The foreign minister recalled that the Constitution was violated on October 12, 1999, saying that history is a witness that a prayer that was not even sought was granted and even the Constitution was allowed to be amended.

On the current situation, he recalled that the opposition gave a statement that they would not accept any decision reviving the ‘doctrine of necessity’ when the matter was sub-judice.

Qureshi said that he wanted to give background to what has brought the house to this point. As per SC’s decision, he said, it’s April 3 today as the apex court said so in its Suo Moto case.

“For the last four years, the opposition has been calling for elections and that’s what the PM said last night. We admit the court’s decision but it’s important to give background to what happened last Sunday.”

Qureshi said that it was imperative to probe the allegation of foreign conspiracy as the NSC — the highest security forum — has seen evidence pertaining to a foreign conspiracy and concluded that the matter was sensitive and needs attention.

“They acknowledged that there was political interference and a démarche should be issued.” Accordingly, he said, the Foreign Office issued the same. “The NSC also decided to convene a parliamentary committee session but the opposition had boycotted the meeting.”

At this point, Shehbaz stood up and asked the speaker that the floor be given to him but before anyone could say a word more, the speaker adjourned the session till 12:30; leaving the house guessing what happened in the spur of the moment.

In the six-point agenda issued by the National Assembly Secretariat on Friday, voting on the no-confidence motion is on the fourth position.

In addition, the agenda includes two calling attention notices, one of which draws the defence minister’s attention to the non-payment of salaries to councillors in the country’s cantonment boards and the other invites the energy minister’s attention regarding the increase in petroleum prices.

During the proceedings of the house, Senator Faisal Javed was expelled from the hall. He entered the hall and security personnel present pulled him out.

‘Judicial coup’

Taking to the floor, PTI’s Shireen Mazari called the Supreme Court’s verdict a ‘judicial coup’. She asked the chief election commissioner to resign if he was unable to perform his constitutional duties.

The PTI lawmaker also objected on apex court’s decision of calling in the CEC in the suo motu case and asking about elections when that wasn’t the matter pending before the top court.

Opp meets speaker in chamber

Following the adjournment of the NA session, a delegation of the joint opposition met with Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser in his chamber to again urge him to carry out his constitutional responsibility towards the house.

The opposition demanded the voting on the no-confidence resolution take place today, as per the SC’s orders. The delegation maintained that the house should be run as per the apex court’s ruling, adding that the lawmakers from the treasury benches were intentionally creating a ruckus in the parliament.

The joint opposition’s delegation consisted of Bilawal Bhutto, Maulana Asad Mehmood, Rana Sanaullah, Ayaz Sadiq and Naveed Qamar, whereas Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Amir Dogar among other ministers represented the government.

Earlier, senior opposition leaders, including PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari reached the parliament.

Shehbaz, speaking briefly to media personnel, said that Imran Khan was more upset about Shehbaz coming into power than he was by getting ousted himself.

Qureshi, talking to reporters, said the PTI would present its position in the NA session while remaining within the ambit of the Constitution.

The minister claimed that they were ready for any situation, and had taken these steps to be an independent nation and raise the flag of the country. “We believe that the people of Pakistan are with us,” he said.

He informed media personnel that he would present the position of Imran Khan and PTI in the NA and the decision regarding the Foreign Secretary’s briefing would be taken in the lower house session today.

When asked if there would be a vote of no-confidence, Qureshi said it depended on the environment of the National Assembly.

Babar Awan said three words, “Pakistan, Constitution and nation”

Deputy Speaker Qasim Sure said he had accepted the decision by the the apex court. “I believe that it is a foreign conspiracy and the NSC and parliamentary defence committee has endorsed this,” he stated, adding that the people of Pakistan should think about how the current events are playing out.

The deputy speaker added that the conspiracy was in fact true and that they wanted to prove it before the nation. “I think the nation also knows this and they stand with Imran Khan.”

He further stated that the session would proceed as ordered, and the rest depended on the speaker and the agenda of the Assembly.

PTI MNA Ali Muhammad Khan said that the truth would emerge victorious and that Imran Khan was fighting for Pakistan. “Pakistan’s decisions will be taken in Pakistan, not Washington”.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader Aminul Haque stated that obedience to the Constitution and law was a duty, and the Constitution stated that a vote must take place after the no-trust motion.

He added that the PTI’s surprise was revealed in the past and resulted in nothing. “Protest is the right of every democratic party,” he maintained.

Last Sunday, NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri had rejected the united opposition’s no-trust motion against the prime minister on the grounds that it was backed by a “foreign country” and thus, the opposition parties had violated Article 5 – loyalty to the state and obedience to the Constitution and law.

However, the ‘constitutional crisis’ was remedied at the Supreme Court which set aside Suri’s ruling and the subsequent dissolution of the lower house of parliament by President Arif Alvi on the premier’s advice in its landmark unanimous ruling on Thursday night after taking a suo moto notice last Sunday.

The 5-0 ruling ordered parliament to reconvene on Saturday (today), no later than 10:30am, saying that the session could not be prorogued without the conclusion of the no-trust motion against PM Imran. “It is declared that the resolution was pending and subsisting at all times and continues to so remain pending and subsisting,” the short order read.

Another ‘surprise’ in store?

The PM Imran-led cabinet, which was brought back to life on SC’s order, also decided to form a commission to probe the alleged “foreign conspiracy” behind the no-confidence motion filed against the prime minister by the opposition and reveal the contents of the “threatening letter” to the lawmakers before they begin voting.

It may be mentioned that the previous ‘sleight of hand’ manoeuvring to throw the no-confidence motion by declaring the opposition as “traitors” landed the premier and his party in hot waters as the country’s top court not only declared it unconstitutional but also ruled that it was the government that had blatantly violated the Constitution.

Currently, the joint opposition parties have more lawmakers on their side than the government, especially, after the government allies parted ways with the government. In addition, the opposition parties enjoy the support of roughly two-dozen PTI dissidents.

Soon after Suri had prorogued the session and the treasury members left the assembly hall, the opposition parties had held a symbolic session of the assembly with a total of 197 members sitting on the opposition benches.

Out of the 342-member house, a party or different parties together can form the government if it has the support of 172 or more members on its side. The premier would continue if the opposition fails to produce 172 or more lawmakers in the assembly for any reason.

Seeing the clear majority of the other side last time, the government had disrupted the session, which plunged the country into a political and constitutional crisis. The crisis gripped the country for almost a week after the deputy speaker had blocked the way of voting on the motion. It, however, has now been cleared by the top court.

If PM Khan loses the vote, parliament would continue to function and the lawmakers in the National Assembly will elect a new prime minister to serve until August 2023, after which a general election is due within 60 days. However, the new premier can go for early elections before August 2023.

Voting procedure

The Second Schedule of the NA rules defines the procedure for recording votes. Before voting commences, it states, that the NA speaker shall direct that the bells be rung for five minutes to enable members not present in the chamber to be present.

Immediately after the bells stop ringing, all the entrances to the lobby shall be locked and the assembly staff posted at each entrance shall not allow any entry or exit through those entrances until the voting has concluded.

It adds that the Speaker shall then read out the resolution before the Assembly and ask the members who wish to vote in favour of the resolution to pass in single file through the entrance where tellers shall be posted to record the votes. On reaching the desk of the tellers, each member shall, in turn, call out the division number allotted to him under the rules.

The tellers shall then mark off his number on the division list simultaneously calling out the name of the member. In order to ensure that his vote has been properly recorded, the member shall not move off until he has clearly heard the teller call out his name. After a member has recorded his vote, he shall not return to the Chamber until bells are rung under paragraph 3.

When the Speaker finds that all the members who wished to vote have recorded their votes, he shall announce that the voting has concluded. Thereupon the secretary shall cause the division list to be collected, count the recorded votes and present the result of the count to the speaker.

The speaker shall then direct that the bells be rung for two minutes to enable the members to return to the chamber. After the bells stop ringing, the speaker shall announce the result to the assembly.

Mian Abrar
Mian Abrar
The writer heads Pakistan Today's Islamabad Bureau. He has a special focus on counter-terrorism and inter-state relations in Asia, Asia Pacific and South East Asia regions. He tweets as @mian_abrar and also can be reached at [email protected]
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