Pakistan’s opposition parties are speeding up efforts to bring a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan. For months now, they have been trying to develop a consensus on the issue. Discussions in this regard appear to have reached a critical stage.
Political activity over the last few days suggests that they are planning something in parliament in the coming days. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has asked its legislators who are not in Pakistan to return home immediately and those in the country not to leave for the next few days. On Monday, PML-N chief Shahbaz Sharif, who is the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, met with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to discuss a no-confidence motion against Khan.
They have decided to meet again sometime this week to finalize details regarding their joint move. Opposition parties have also reached out to the government’s political allies in this regard. Last week, the opposition alliance’s leadership met with the leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q), an ally of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), to gain its support to dislodge the government.
As things stand, it appears that the opposition may request a session of the National Assembly to begin the process soon. As per constitutional rules, the speaker of the National Assembly is required to summon a session within 14 days of the request to begin proceedings.
While opposition parties may feel they have done enough work to successfully initiate proceedings to bring down the government, a lot can still go wrong for them. The government has so far been able to successfully evade the opposition’s plans in the National Assembly and Senate regarding a number of crucial legislations, including the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Autonomy Bill and a mini-budget.
Moreover, the ruling party has been quite adept at dividing the opposition to hamper their efforts against the government. Last month, PPP Senator Yusuf Raza Gilani resigned from the post of leader of the opposition in the Senate after he was accused of helping the government in passing the SBP Bill.
On top of it, the government says that it is well prepared to counter the opposition’s potential no-confidence move. On Tuesday, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said that the government had “completed its preparations” in this regard. “We are fully ready for the no-confidence motion, but it is highly unlikely that the opposition will make such a move,” Fawad said.
At this stage, it is unclear where the military establishment stands on the issue of Khan’s removal as the head of the government. The confidence with which the opposition is announcing its plans indicates that they may have gotten some sort of confirmation of support from the military establishment. At the same time, it is possible that the opposition is only upping the ante against the government because they do not see the security establishment assisting the ruling party as actively as it used to in the past.
It is important to note here that the ruling party’s political allies, particularly PML-Q, will only move against the government when they are told to do so by the security establishment.
Some analysts believe that the opposition’s move is all about preparing for the 2023 general election and the incoming local bodies elections in Punjab. “Time for midterm elections is over and any in-house change would be undesirable for the opposition,” Imran Iqbal, a lecturer at the Chiba Institute of Science University in Japan, told The Diplomat. “The opposition wants Khan to completely fail rather than remove him midway” through his term, which would “allow him space to emerge as a strong opposition leader in the 2023 general elections,” Iqbal said
It is possible that the opposition parties have seen how Fazlur Rahman reaped the rewards in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s local bodies elections by actively opposing Khan. Perhaps the opposition is also making efforts to fully capitalize on Khan’s inability to deliver by actively opposing his government.
It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks play out considering the opposition’s focus on the no-confidence move against Khan.