Imran Khan becomes Pakistan's first prime minister to be ousted through a no-trust vote. Twitter photo
Imran Khan early on Sunday was finally voted out from the position of prime minister through a vote of no-confidence motion — the first in country’s history — at the end of a day full of high political drama which also saw National Assembly (NA) Speaker Asad Qaiser and Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri resigning from their positions.
The no-confidence motion against the former prime minister was passed during a crucial session of National Assembly which commenced at 10:30am on Saturday morning and culminated in wee hours of Sunday.
As many as 174 lawmakers voted in favour of the motion to oust the premier without PTI dissenters. Ayaz Sadiq couldn’t cast vote as he was chairing the session. Treasury benches lawmakers left the house after Asad Qaiser stepped down from his post and handed over the charge to PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq.
“174 have recorded their votes in favour of the resolution… consequently the resolution for vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan has been passed with a majority,” announced Ayaz Sadiq.
The no-confidence motions were moved against them by the opposition parties.
Asad had earlier adjourned the crucial NA session, which commenced at 10.30pm on Friday morning, multiple times without holding the voting. 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 Imran Khan.
Asad Qaiser (R), Shah Mahmood Qurashi, Shahbaz Sharif and Bilawal Zardarii during the NA session. Twitter photo
The joint opposition had lodged an official complaint with the former 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.”
Security personnel stand guard in front of the parliament building in Islamabad. AFP
Imran's cabinet will meet at 9pm (1600 GMT) on Saturday, people familiar with the matter said, as delays continue in parliament over a vote on ousting him.
"We don't know the agenda of the meeting," one government official told Reuters. "We just have been instructed to meet."
In a brief exchange in parliament on Saturday, opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif warned against further delays. Shahbaz is a likely candidate to replace Imran.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, meanwhile, demanded an investigation into ruling party allegations that the no-confidence vote was a ploy by the opposition and America to unseat Imran Khan, who was not present. Qureshi resumed a speech to parliament in the afternoon in what some opposition lawmakers said was a delaying tactic by the government.
In an impassioned speech on Friday, Imran doubled down on his accusations that his opponents colluded with the United States to unseat him over his foreign policy choices, which often seemed to favor China and Russia and defied US criticism.
Imran said Washington opposed his Feb.24 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin hours after tanks rolled into Ukraine launching a devastating war in the heart of Europe.
The US State Department has denied any involvement in Pakistan’s internal politics. Deputy State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters on Friday there was "absolutely no truth to these allegations.”
People listen to Imran Khan addressing the nation on television at a restaurant in Islamabad on Friday. AFP
"Of course, we continue to follow these developments and support Pakistan’s constitutional process, but again these allegations are absolutely not true,” she said.
Still, Imran urged his supporters to take to the streets, particularly the youth who have been the backbone of his support since the former cricket star turned conservative Islamist politician came to power in 2018. He said they needed to protest an America that wants to dictate to Pakistan to protect Pakistan’s sovereignty.
"You have to come out to protect your own future. It is you who have to protect your democracy, your sovereignty and your independence. ... This is your duty,” he said. "I will not accept an imposed government."
Police officers arrive outside the Parliament House building in Islamabad on Saturday. AFP
Imran’s options are limited and should he see a big turnout in support, he may try to keep the momentum of street protests as a way to pressure Parliament to dissolve and go to early elections.
A no-confidence vote loss for Imran on Saturday would bring to power some unlikely partners.
Among them is a radically religious party that runs scores of religious schools. The Jamiat-e-ulema-Islam, or Assembly of Clerics, teaches a deeply conservative brand of Islam in its schools.
The largest among the opposition parties — the Pakistan Peoples Party, led by the son of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz — have been tainted by allegations of widespread corruption.
PML-N leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was convicted of corruption after being named in the so-called Panama Papers. That's a collection of leaked secret financial documents showing how some of the world’s richest hide their money and involving a global law firm based in Panama. Sharif was disqualified by Pakistan’s Supreme Court from holding office.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi talks to reporters outside the Supreme Court. AP
If the opposition wins the no-confidence vote, it is up to parliament to choose a new head of government, which could be Sharif’s brother, Shahbaz Sharif. If the lawmakers are unsuccessful, early elections would be called.
As the session began after adjournment, Qureshi took the floor once again and lambasted the fact that lawmakers switched their loyalties for material gain.
"Are those powers who have sworn to uphold the Constitution not seeing this bazaar?" he asked, adding that the nation was well aware of how votes were bought and sold during last year's Senate elections.
"We raised objections [...] we presented those videos in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The PTI kept knocking on the ECP's doors for a year. After this struggle, the arguments were concluded. [But] despite the lapse of a year, the judgement is reserved and we have not gotten justice," he lamented.
The foreign minister also said that "blatant attempts" for changing the regime were not hidden. Striking a philosophical note, he said that man was temporary but facts could not be suppressed. "History will expose those who have run this entire drama [...] the pen of the historian does not forgive anyone."
Bilawal holds Foreign Minister Qureshi responsible for Imran's troubles
Bilawal began by telling Amjad Niazi he was violating the constitution and the court's orders. "You cannot take up anything else except for what is on the agenda. Not only you, the speaker also did the same," he told him, demanding that voting is held on the no-confidence motion.
At this, Niazi told the PPP chairman that the court can't intervene in parliamentary matters. Bilawal replied by saying that Niazi would be disqualified for violating the law, adding that this was not the first time the court had set aside the speaker's ruling.
Shahbaz Sharif (R) and Bilawal Zardari speak during a press conference in Islamabad. AFP
Turning his guns on Imran, Bilawal said that the premier was breaking the law on his way out of office. "If you want to be involved in it, then it's your choice. But I had warned the prime minister to stay away from the man speaking before me," he said, referring to the foreign minister.
The PPP chairman alleged that FM Qureshi was responsible for the premier's troubles, again calling for voting to be held on the no-confidence motion. "If you don't come to today's agenda, then you should know that the opposition will not leave [...] we will snatch our constitutional rights from you."
He said that the government had lost its majority in the assembly. "We can debate on the foreign conspiracy for 100 days but first conduct voting."
Bilawal alleged that the government had told several lies in this whole saga. The supposed conversation took place on March 7 and the no-confidence was presented on March 8, he noted.
"But there is a time difference between Pakistan and America which means that the no-trust move was presented as the conversation was underway."
No prime minister in the country's history has seen out a full term, and Khan is facing the biggest challenge to his rule since being elected in 2018, with opponents accusing him of economic mismanagement and foreign-policy bungling.
Khan, whose fate was not immediately clear, advised the country's president to dissolve parliament, leading to fresh political instability in the nuclear-armed country of 220 million people.
On Tuesday the court said it wouldn't "indulge in the matter of state policy or foreign policy" in making a decision. "Our concern is the legality of the ruling of the speaker," said Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial.
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