Dozens of Pakistani MPs defect from ruling party ahead of no-trust vote - GulfToday

Dozens of Pakistani MPs defect from ruling party ahead of no-trust vote


Imran Khan with Senate Chairman (R) during the National Assembly session in Islamabad. File

Tariq Butt / Agencies

Several lawmakers from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ruling party withdrew their support for him on Thursday ahead of a no-confidence vote, stoking more uncertainty over whether the former cricketer can hang on to power.

The development came a day after a key ally said Imran was in danger of losing his coalition partners, flagging a “tilt” by his partners in government towards their opponents.

The opposition blames Imran for mismanaging the country, economy and foreign policy. No Pakistani prime minister has ever completed his term in office.

The threat of political turmoil in the nuclear-armed nation is growing as the opposition looks to oust Imran in a vote that could come as soon as this month after a no-confidence motion was unveiled in parliament last week.

“We have differences with the prime minister,” one of his lawmakers, Raja Riaz, told local Geo News TV. “We will vote according to our conscience,” he said, claiming there were more than 20 defectors.

Three more lawmakers endorsed Riaz and TV showed recorded footage of several ruling party members at an office of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in Islamabad.

“We are clear that we will not get into any blackmailing to save our government,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told a news conference. “We reject this culture of turncoats.”

Without the coalition partners and the dissidents, Imran’s party, which has 155 seats in the lower house, would fall short of the 172 needed to retain power. The joint opposition consists of major parties such as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) of former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, respectively, and has a strength of nearly 163 in the lower house.

Riaz, who is a member of the Jahangir Tareen group, told TV channels that there were around 24 PTI lawmakers staying at the Sindh House, citing fears of government action against them similar to the March 10 raid by police on Parliament Lodges in Islamabad.

“All of the media and the nation know that the police attacked the lodges and our opposition MP was tortured and taken to the police station. “After that, we — those who had been dissenting for a long time against inflation, corruption, the SAPMs and the lawlessness, and had been raising our voice in front of Imran — felt that the incident that happened in the Lodges could also happen with us,” Riaz said.

Amid high political temperature in the country, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed said on Thursday that he has suggested Imran to impose Governor rule in Sindh.

Talking to media outside the Prime Minister House after meeting Imran, Rasheed said he has advised the prime minister to impose governor rule in Sindh (to counter the no-confidence motion in the centre).

Rasheed’s statement came after the exposure of the PTI MNAs presence in Sindh House and a hint given by Fawad Chaudhary that government may take strong action over the alleged horse-trading being conduct in Sindh House.

Imran has stated that the conscience of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers was being bought at the Sindh House Islamabad by the opposition, but the opposition PPP has claimed that a number of opposition MPs are presently staying at this premises to provide for security in the wake of threats by government ministers and the March 10 police raid on Parliament Lodges.

This admission came amid allegations by the government that the opposition had detained some ruling party lawmakers at Sindh House ahead of the vote on the no-confidence resolution against the prime minister, and a statement by Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi that around a dozen PTI MPs had ‘gone missing’.

“Yes, the MPs are staying at Sindh House. Every member has a right to stay there. These members are from the opposition and our allies,” PPP leader Faisal Karim Kundi told reporters.

Related articles