EDITORIAL: PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) Chairman Imran Khan’s call to return to the National Assembly that his party members had left after they resigned en masse on April 11 last year was certainly a puzzle to many a mind. Many ask each other why now when his party’s governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) were on the way out of the legislative chambers.
There was and is no definite answer to the question, but a guess based on how it seems and not on proof is that Imran Khan was prompted to conclude that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has lost confidence of the majority in the National Assembly. May be there are some developments behind the scene that successfully persuaded Imran Khan to ‘test’ the support the prime minister enjoys in the lower house of parliament.
But what everybody could see was, and is, the MQM-P’s (Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s) message to the PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) coalition government headed by Shehbaz Sharif that “confidence should be reciprocal”. With seven seats in the National Assembly the MQM-P has the right potential to tilt the balance of power against the government in Islamabad.
And PTI also believed that by returning to the National Assembly it would have adequate strength to force President Arif Alvi to act in line with Clause 7 of Article 91 of the Constitution and call upon Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to seek vote of confidence. Constitutionally, the Prime Minister “shall hold the office during the pleasure of the President”, and as for his powers he “shall” not exercise his powers under this clause unless he is satisfied that Prime Minister does not command the confidence of majority of the house. That being the carrot the PTI leadership decided to return to the National Assembly and from its floor call upon the President to ask Shehbaz Sharif to get vote of confidence.
But who has seen the day after. Within hours of Imran khan’s challenge to “test” the political strength of Shehbaz Sharif as the prime minister the Speaker of the National Assembly came up with a lethal encounter. Turning the page on his persistent stand that the PTI members, who resigned en masse, should meet him individually and verify that his/her resignation is voluntary, he accepted in one go the resignations of 34 PTI and one AML (Awami Muslim League) MNAs and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) de-notified their membership obligingly.
These 35 are the ones who were members of the Khan’s cabinet and after his fall from power are his committed supporters on the media and the street. PTI can still return to the National Assembly as it still has about 70 members whose resignations have not been accepted as yet. The question is: will Imran Khan return to the house with such moth-eaten strength and seek vote of confidence by the sitting prime minister? That’s quite unexpected, but there is no match to Imran Khan’s flourish for springing “surprises”.
He may go for by-elections on all vacant seats, as he did when 11 PTI members’ resignations were accepted last year. As a reaction to it, PDM’s leader Fazlur Rehman says the ruling alliance will not go for by-elections, because, in the words of Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, “there is no need to contest elections on these seats which are likely to be held in March – five months before the term of the current NA ends”.
It is pathetic to say, but it must be said, that to an average Pakistani there are now two ‘Pakistans’. The one in which he lives is virtually a hell on earth – there are deadly stampedes at sites where wheat flour is sold at subsidised rates; muggers control the streets; security forces pay with their blood at the hands of terrorists in defence of the country; and officers in the finance ministry are sleeplessly waiting for a call from the IMF (International Monetary Fund). In the ‘other’ Pakistan, there are men and women who are constantly engaged in endless machinations, negotiations and power plays. Little do, however, our arch exponents of power politics know that their approach to politics is venturing on to impossibly marshy ground.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023