Pakistan: Imran Khan skips Assembly session, Opposition urges Speaker to follow Constitution

New Delhi: 

Contrary to his earlier statement that he would play the game till the last ball, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was conspicuous by his absence in the National Assembly, which commenced its proceedings on Saturday to take up the no-confidence motion on the direction of the Supreme Court.

The no-confidence motion is listed fourth on the day’s agenda of the National Assembly. While the Opposition has come out in full force, very few members of the treasury benches were seen in attendance. Prime Minister Imran Khan was also not present in the House, reported Geo News. Taking the floor, the leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif hailed Thursday as a historic day when the apex court rejected the Deputy Speaker’s ruling to reject the no-confidence motion. According to the PML-N leader, the SC decision had made Pakistan’s future “bright”, reported Geo News.

He also thanked the Opposition leaders for leading protests against the erroneous ruling of the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly.

He called upon the National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser to conduct proceedings in accordance with the SC’s directives, stating that Parliament would be writing history today.

“Today, Parliament is going to defeat a selected prime minister in a Constitutional manner,” he declared.

Shehbaz urged the Speaker to let bygones be bygones and to stand for the law and the Constitution. He urged the Speaker to play his role and get his name “written in history in golden words”.

“You must cash in on this moment with conviction and with your heart and mind. Don’t act on the dictation of the selected Prime Minister,” he urged Qaiser, adding that the apex court’s directives were clear.

Responding to Shehbaz’s earnest plea, Qaiser assured the Opposition leader that he would conduct proceedings according to the law and the Constitution. “[But] the important thing is that there has been talk of an international conspiracy. This should also be discussed,” he said, as the hall echoed with protests from the Opposition benches.

This prompted Shehbaz Sherif to tell the Qaiser that he would be violating the court’s directives if he would go down that road (foreign conspiracy). He also read out the court’s directives regarding the convening of the session of the National Assembly.

“Under the court’s directives, you are bound to take up this agenda item and no other items. That is the intent of the order and you cannot deviate from it,” he said, calling on the Speaker to hold voting on the motion forthwith.

“The SC’s orders will be followed in true letter and spirit,” Qaiser replied, giving the floor to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, reported Geo News.

After what can perhaps be called the longest week in Pakistani politics in recent history, the National Assembly session to decide the fate of Prime Minister Imran Khan is currently underway.

National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser is chairing the session which began at 10:30 am sharp, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s directives.

Lawmakers began arriving at Parliament House ahead of the session while television footage showed tight security arrangements in place in the capital.

The united Opposition also held a meeting of its Parliamentary group that was chaired by PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and attended by 176 lawmakers, reported Geo News.

The Opposition needs the support of at least 172 lawmakers from a total of 342 to oust the premier through the no-confidence motion.

Despite the impression that the PTI has lost its majority in the lower House, the ruling party is still adamant that it would not leave the field open for the Opposition and has vowed to make things as difficult for them as they can by creating hurdles in the voting procedure and also preventing the election of Opposition nominee Shehbaz Sharif as the new leader of the House.

Ahead of the session, on Friday, PM Imran had presided over a meeting of the party’s Parliamentary group.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has said the government would present the “threatening” cable — purportedly containing evidence of a foreign plot against the government — or its contents in the Assembly and will ask the Speaker for a debate on the issue.

The joint Opposition, primarily the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and the PPP, had submitted the no-confidence motion against the premier with the NA Secretariat on March 8. (ANI)


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