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Pakistan Reader# 309, 9 March 2022

The no-confidence against Imran: Between the motion and the voting

The Opposition has finally filed a no-confidence motion against Imran Khan. But, does it have enough numbers in the Parliament to carry the process?

D Suba Chandran

Finally, on 8 March 2022, after months of contemplations and internal divisions, the Opposition in Pakistan, led by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), filed the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan. The Opposition filed the motion at the Secretariat of the National Assembly, as required by the Constitution.
 
A jubilant opposition, led by Shehbaz Sharif (President of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz), Asif Zardari (President of the Pakistan Peoples Party) and Maulana Fazlur Rehman (Leader of the Pakistan Democratic Movement) addressed the media after the above filing.
 
From mid-2020 to March 2022: The road to no confidence
Filing a no-confidence motion against Imran Khan is not a victory in itself, though the Opposition wants the rest of Pakistan to consider so. This is because of the time that the PDM took to file the motion against Imran Khan. Since mid-2020, when the PDM was formed, there were multiple discussions, strategies and heartbreaks for the opposition parties.
 
Though Imran Khan is a common factor for the PPP, PML-N and JUI-F that form the core components of the PDM, there were great differences within. While Fazlur Rahman, the chief of the PDM, was in favour of resigning from the Parliament and provincial assemblies, the PPP was against the idea. Since the beginning, the PPP insisted on an "in-house change" meaning the removal of Imran Khan from being the prime minister and replacing with another. The JUI-F and the PML-N were willing to wreck the process by resigning from the assemblies and holding a long march from provincial capitals to Islamabad, thereby forcing Imran Khan to resign.
 
Now, what has changed the above strategy? First, the PPP's insistence on an in-house change. The PPP has been consistent from the beginning. While the idea of resigning from the assemblies was agreeable to the JUI-F and PML-N, it was not for the PPP. Unlike the JUI-F and the PML-N, PPP is not just an opposition; it is a ruling party of Sindh and has the most to lose if it resigns from the assemblies. Second, within the PML-N, there was also a divide between the Sharif brothers; now, it is believed, that Nawaz Sharif is also agreeable to the idea of an in house change.
 
Does the PDM have the numbers in the Parliament?
This is the most important question. The Parliament has 342 members; to get the no-confidence resolution passed, the PDM would need a minimum of 172 and have a simple majority.
 
An earlier PR analysis looked into this question. The ruling coalition has 177 members - PTI (156), MQM-P (7), Baluchistan Awami Party (5), PML-Q (5), and Grand Democratic Alliance (3). The PDM has only 162 – PML-N (84), PPP (56), MMA (15), BNP-M (4), ANP (1) and Independents (2).
 
The above numbers reveal what the PTI has and the Opposition does not. The numbers are with the PTI.
 
If that is the case, why would the PDM be bold enough to take the no-confidence motion? There could be three reasons. First, some members of the PTI coalition has promised the PDM to support a no-confidence vote against the PTI. Who could that be? The MQM-P and the GDA have ten members; however, both parties are from Sindh and have a problem with the PPP in the province. Will the members of the MQM-P and GDA cross vote?
 
Or, will it be the PML-Q from Punjab? The PDM leaders during the recent weeks have been meeting with the Chaudhry brothers of the PML-Q. Despite being part of the coalition, the Chaudhrys have a problem with Imran – over the chief minister of Punjab. The Chaudhrys would want to replace the Usman Buzdar, the PTI's present chief minister in Punjab. Imran has been against the idea. However, the PML-Q has only five members in Parliament.
 
The second reason for the Opposition to be so confident is the debate over a divide within the PTI. There has been a discussion about the internal divisions within the party, even in the KP province. The party's poor showing during the recently concluded local elections in the province is cited as a reason to substantiate the angst within the party. According to media reports, the PDM is confident of getting a sizeable number of the PTI to break ranks and vote against Imran Khan. Is this true?
 
Besides the KP factor, another big issue for Imran Khan has been the Jahangir Tareen faction within the PTI. Once a close friend of Imran Khan, Tareen has fallen out of Imran's inner circle. Tareen has linkages with other PTI leaders, including members of the assemblies at national and provincial levels. It is believed that the PDM is in touch with Tareen, and the latter would get a sizeable number from the PTI to support the motion against Imran. Early this week, another leader of the PTI and a friend of Imran – Aleem Khan was reported to have joined the Tareen group. Aleem was reported to have stated: "Many PTI workers are still looking for answers why the loyalists, including Jahangir Tareen, were pushed away…We would not have regretted being sidelined if the government was working in the right direction and offering relief to the masses."
 
The third reason the PDM is buoyed is where the Establishment stands. The Opposition believes that the Establishment would remain neutral in the ongoing power struggle between the PTI and the PDM. Since the Opposition believes Imran is a "selected" Prime Minister by the Establishment, the latter's neutrality would provide the extra space to move the no-confidence.
 
Will the Opposition succeed? So much can happen between the no-confidence motion and the actual voting. Welcome to Pakistan's politics. However, the situation as of 9 March is: Advantage Opposition.

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