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Imran Khan becomes first premier of the country to be unseated

Shehbaz says the new regime will not indulge in the politics of revenge, will let the law run its own course


ISLAMABAD:
At the stroke of midnight, Imran Khan was voted out from power through a vote of a no-confidence motion, becoming the first prime minister in the country’s history to be unseated by a parliamentary revolt.

The joint opposition’s no-confidence motion, which required 172 votes in the 342-strong parliament to pass, was supported by 174 lawmakers, shaking the political earth of the country with an unprecedented ouster of the premier and seemingly bringing to an end the protracted crisis.

PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq, who was chairing the session after PTI’s Asad Qasier resigned as NA speaker, announced the result.

The assembly will now appoint a new prime minister. Sadiq announced that nomination papers for the new prime minister can be submitted by 2pm today.

Scrutiny will be conducted by 3pm and the House would come back to elect a new premier at 11am on April 11 (Monday).

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which stayed in power for over three-and-a-half years, had been struggling to stay in power as its allies jumped ship and joined hands with the joint opposition that had been vying for an in-house change.

The much-anticipated vote followed on the heels of the perpetually drawn-out session of the National Assembly punctuated by long adjournments amid high political drama as well as unverified swirling speculations gripping the nation.

The lower house met at 10.30am Saturday sharp in accordance with the directives of the Supreme Court under the chairmanship of Speaker Asad Qaiser. However, the session dragged its feet into the wee hours of Sunday.

Minutes before voting began, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser resigned from his post, saying he could not take part in a foreign conspiracy to oust the prime minister.

Before announcing his resignation, Qaiser said that he had received “important documents” from the cabinet, which he invited the leader of the opposition and the Chief Justice of Pakistan to see.

“In line with our laws and the need to stand for our country, I have decided that I can’t remain on the position of the speaker and thereby resign,” he said.

“Because this is a national duty and it is the Supreme Court’s decision, I will ask the panel chairman Ayaz Sadiq to run the session,” Qaiser said.

Voting on the resolution then began at 11:58pm, and members in favour of the resolution were asked to exit the gate on Sadiq’s left. Sadiq then adjourned the session for four minutes since according to rules, the same session cannot continue past midnight.

The session then resumed at 12:02am, with recitation of the Holy Quran and naat. Then, the voting process continued, with lawmakers confirming their votes by writing their name in a register placed near one of the assembly doors.

Also read: IHC to hear emergency petition to prevent PM from de-notifying COAS

‘Will not indulge in politics of revenge’

Minutes after Mr Khan’s ouster was confirmed, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif vowed that the new regime would not indulge in politics of revenge.

Speaking on the floor, Shehbaz Sharif, who is the joint opposition’s candidate for the post of prime minister, paid tribute to all leaders of the joint opposition.

“Our alliance will rebuild Pakistan. I don’t want to go back to the bitterness of the past. We want to forget them and move forward,” he said, adding that the alliance will rebuild Pakistan.

The PML-N president expressed gratitude to other leaders, including Asif Ali Zardari and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, for their relentless struggle for upholding the rule of law and constitution which, he added, had finally yielded fruits.

He went on to say that no one would interfere in the affairs of law and justice and would run the institutions together.

‘We’ve made history’: Bilawal

Speaking on the occasion, PPP’s chairperson, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, said he would like to congratulate the whole nation and the House, “as for the first time in the history of the country, a no-confidence motion has succeeded and we have made history”.

The PPP chairman recalled what had happened on April 10, adding that on this day, the country approved the 1973 Constitution.

“On April 10, 1986, Benazir Bhutto ended her self-imposed exile and arrived in Lahore to launch her struggle against Ziaul Haq,” said Bilawal.

The PPP chairman said that on April 10, 2022, the person who was declared “selected” by the Opposition and proved himself to be an “undemocratic burden” on the country saw the end of his rule.

“Today [on] April 20, 2022, we welcome [you] back to the purana Pakistan,” said Bilawal.

“I have a message for the Pakistani youth that they should never give up on their dreams as nothing is impossible. Democracy is the best revenge. Pakistan Zindabad,” said Bilawal.

‘Not old, but better Pakistan’

Meanwhile, taking the floor, MQM Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said this occasion is not merely to celebrate “but show gratefulness as this time is more of a test than a reward.”

“We don’t want a naya [new] or puana [old] Pakistan… we want a better Pakistan,” the MQM-P leader said.

“We have fulfilled our promise now it’s your turn to fulfil your commitments,” Siddiqui said while referring to the agreement that his party inked with the joint opposition in return for supporting the no-trust motion.

‘Imran punished for foreign policy’

Meanwhile, the lone PTI MNA present in the house, Ali Muhammad Khan in his emotional speech defended the tenure of Imran Khan as the prime minister of the country, saying that the ousted premier paid the price for pursuing the ‘independent foreign policy’.

“I am proud of my leader that he did not bow down before West and fought till the end… he will return to the power with two-third majority,” he added.

Last Sunday, NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri had rejected the united opposition’s no-trust motion against the prime minister on the grounds that it was backed by a “foreign country” and thus, the opposition parties had violated Article 5 – loyalty to the state and obedience to the Constitution and law.

However, the “constitutional crisis” was remedied at the Supreme Court which set aside Suri’s ruling and the subsequent dissolution of the lower house of parliament by President Arif Alvi on the premier’s advice in its landmark unanimous ruling on Thursday night after taking a suo moto notice last Sunday.

The 5-0 ruling ordered parliament to reconvene on Saturday, no later than 10:30am, saying that the session could not be prorogued without the conclusion of the no-trust motion against PM Imran.

At the start of the session on Saturday, Qaiser vowed to carry out the proceedings of the House as per the orders of the apex court. After a while, the House was adjourned till 12.30pm but it could not meet at the scheduled time and instead, the proceedings started at 2.30pm.

The government still did not conduct a vote of no-confidence at 2.30pm despite the opposition’s demand after which the session was adjourned till 5pm. Meeting for a short time the session was then put off till 7.30pm. As Panel of House Chairman Amjad Niazi presided over the session for a brief period, the proceedings were adjourned till 9.30pm.

Earlier, while addressing the House, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari alleged that PM Imran was seeking military intervention in the country’s political affairs by delaying voting on the no-confidence motion and creating a constitutional crisis.

He said the NA speaker was committing contempt of court and abrogating the constitution by not holding the vote of no-confidence against PM Imran. The five-member bench of the Supreme Court has given an order and no agenda item can be raised except the order of the day, he added.

The Bhutto scion demanded of the speaker to follow the court’s orders warning him that he would be disqualified over the contempt of court.

Before Bilawal, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi addressed the House.

“The opposition was invited to speak, if they believe the communiqué does not exist we will put forth proof,” he said while referring to the alleged foreign conspiracy to topple the PTI-led government.

“We have not said no to the voting, we want the evidence to be examined before the vote is taken. Horse trading, golden dreams shown for switching sides, the question is whether this was constitutional?” he questioned

He said the PTI knocked on the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) doors for a year trying to prove how “votes were bought”. “Despite presenting it with evidence, justice was yet to be done,” the foreign minister said, adding that attempts for a “regime change” had been exposed.

“We are here today, but will not be [here] tomorrow… those bigger than us have been removed. But history will unmask them.”

He further noted, “My prime minister told the nation that it has to now decide whether it wishes to live freely or enslaved”.

Qureshi said PM Imran’s visit to Russia came on the latter’s invitation and that all institutions had agreed that it would be for the betterment of Pakistan.

“Pakistan is a sovereign state, but they (opposition) want it to be a slave,” he said, further claiming that the US national security adviser called on his Pakistani counterpart and asked him to tell PM Imran not to visit Russia.

“Where does one sovereign state tell another to not go on a foreign visit?” he asked.

“We wanted to go and give our own perspective on the Ukraine crisis and advocate diplomacy because we do not want lives to be lost. Pakistan is a country that believes in diplomacy, in self-determination; we have never believed in the threat of force,” he added.

Speaking about India’s missile “accidentally” falling in Khanewal district’s Mian Channu on March 9, the foreign minister went on to insinuate that there was more to New Delhi’s missile “malfunction”, asking if the nation did not want answers regarding the incident.

Earlier in the day, as the proceedings began, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser announced to start the question hour session but had to stop when Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif took the floor on point of order and made a small speech reminding the speaker that he was bound to go ahead as per the top court’s order.

Shehbaz said the chair’s unconstitutional steps were set aside and the doctrine of necessity was buried by the top court.

During his speech, the government side kept interrupting the opposition leader’s speech by speaking and calling him a “beggar” — a tacit reference to his recent statement where he said “beggars can’t be choosers”.

‘History full of constitutional violations’

Taking the floor after the opposition leader, Qureshi said PM Imran had accepted the decision of the Supreme Court but was “disappointed”.

He admitted that the no-trust motion was constitutional but argued that it was as much the opposition’s right to present the motion as the treasury benches’ right to defend it.

“I want to say on behalf of my party that the opposition has a right to present the no-trust motion and it is my right to contest it. We should debate this constitutionally.”

Speaking about General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s coup, the foreign minister recalled that the constitution was violated on October 12, 1999, saying history was a witness that a prayer that was not even sought was granted and even the constitution was allowed to be amended.

On the current situation, he reminded that the opposition said that they would not accept any decision reviving the “doctrine of necessity” when the matter was sub judice.

Qureshi said that he wanted to give a background as to what had brought the House to this point. As per the Supreme Court’s decision, he said, it is April 3 today as the apex court said so in its suo motu case.

“For the last four years, the opposition has been calling for elections and that is what the premier said last night. We admit the court’s decision but it is important to give background to what happened last Sunday.”

Qureshi said it was imperative to probe the allegation of foreign conspiracy as the National Security Committee had “seen evidence pertaining to a foreign conspiracy and concluded that the matter was sensitive and needed attention”.

“They (NSC) acknowledged that there was political interference and a démarche should be issued.” Accordingly, he said, the Foreign Office issued the same.

“The NSC also decided to convene a parliamentary committee session but the opposition had boycotted the meeting.”

At this point, Shehbaz stood up and asked the speaker that the floor be given to him but before anyone could say anything the speaker adjourned the session till 12:30; leaving the house guessing what happened in the spur of the moment.

‘Judicial coup’

Taking the floor, PTI lawmaker Shireen Mazari called the apex court’s verdict a “judicial coup”. She asked the chief election commissioner to resign if he was “unable” to perform his constitutional duties.

She also objected to the apex court’s decision of calling the chief election commissioner in the suo motu case and asking about elections when that was not the matter pending before the top court.

Last Sunday, NA Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri had rejected the united opposition’s no-trust motion against the prime minister on the grounds that it was backed by a “foreign country” and thus, the opposition parties had violated Article 5 – loyalty to the state and obedience to the Constitution and law.

However, the “constitutional crisis” was remedied at the Supreme Court which set aside Suri’s ruling and the subsequent dissolution of the lower house of parliament by President Arif Alvi on the premier’s advice in its landmark unanimous ruling on Thursday night after taking a suo moto notice last Sunday.

Former president and PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari spoke metaphorically on the occasion maintaining that “PPP is the only party [in the country] which has a “political university”.

“Several members on the treasury benches have passed out from this university. They will understand soon and will come back to the PPP,” he said.

“I ask very humbly and with humility that you please start the voting process. I do not want to approach the court against you for violation of court’s order. We talk about the betterment of the country, so please conduct the voting so that we can progress further and Pakistan can also progress.”

Referring to PM Imran’s statement that he was his next target, the PPP co-chairperson said, “Imran Khan said that Asif Zardari is on the target of his gun. Imran is a hunter, a cricketer and also running the country”.

He further said the economy was going down and that the State Bank had raised the interest rates just two days ago.

“Just after the Supreme Court decision, the rupee got stronger and the stock market had strengthened.

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