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Pakistan in Constitutional Crisis After Deputy Speaker Blocks No-confidence Motion
Supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party of Prime Minister Imran Khan shout slogans outside the Parliament House building in Islamabad on April 3, 2022. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images)

Pakistan in Constitutional Crisis After Deputy Speaker Blocks No-confidence Motion

‘The move to oust me is a clear US intervention in Pakistani politics,’ accuses PM Imran Khan, who had been expected to lose vote

[Islamabad] National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri on Sunday dismissed the opposition parties’ motion of no-confidence against the prime minister, saying it was the result of a foreign conspiracy and thus violated the constitutional requirement of loyalty to Pakistan.

Invoking Article 5(1) of the state constitution, the deputy speaker said, “The no-confidence motion should be in line with the constitution, law, and rules. No foreign power has the right to topple the elected government under any conspiracy.

“The no-confidence resolution is against the national integrity and sovereignty, and I issue a ruling to disallow the no-confidence resolution as per rules and laws,” Suri said.

Also on Sunday, President Arif Alvi dissolved parliament at the request of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“The president of Pakistan has approved the advice of the prime minister of Pakistan to dissolve the National Assembly under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” the President’s Secretariat said in a statement.

The opposition filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the decision. Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and his fellow judges arrived at the court, even though Sunday is not normally a working day in Pakistan.

The opposition says it had a clear majority to unseat Khan.

If the no-confidence motion had passed, Khan’s government would have been ousted. The united opposition would have nominated Shahbaz Sharif, the current leader of the opposition in the National Assembly and a former chief minister of Punjab Province, to be prime minister.

Shahbaz Sharif is the younger brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Several allegations of corruption and money laundering are pending against Shahbaz Sharif in the National Accountability Bureau.

Furthermore, Shahbaz Sharif has nominated his son Hamza Shahbaz Sharif for the post of chief minister of Punjab.

Farrukh Habib, minister of state for information and broadcasting, tweeted that an election will be held within 90 days.

Law and Justice Minister Fawad Hussain Chaudhary said in a tweet, “Prime Minister Imran Khan will, however, continue with his duties under Article 224 of the Constitution.”

Asad Kharal, a senior analyst, said, “Imran Khan will be the prime minister for 15 days, and the caretaker setup will hold elections in 90 days.”

As the House proceedings, chaired by Suri, began, Chaudhary said on the floor, “A no-confidence motion was moved under article 95 of the constitution, which was a democratic right.”

The minister then told the National Assembly about an international conspiracy to topple the democratically elected government in Pakistan.

“On March 7, Pakistan’s ambassador was summoned to an official meeting by a country with the team of note-takers and was informed that a no-trust motion would be moved against the prime minister of Pakistan,” Chaudhary said.

“On March 8, the motion against the prime minister was submitted to the National Assembly Secretariat. Pakistan was warned by that country that future bilateral ties were linked to the success of the motion,” he added.

“It was unfortunate that the regime change plot was being carried out at the behest of foreign elements under a conspiracy,” Chaudhary said. “It is not the matter of no-confidence, it is a blatant violation of Article 5(1) of the Constitution,” he said, putting a question before the House on whether foreign assistance could be taken in exchange for regime change in Pakistan.

The law minister asked Suri to invoke article 5(1) of the Constitution which states: “Loyalty to the state is the basic duty of every citizen,” while keeping in view “the fact” that the motion of no-confidence was being moved under an “international conspiracy.”

Earlier on Sunday, Khan, in a short address to the nation, said he had advised the president to dissolve parliament.

Khan congratulated the nation for the no-trust motion’s dismissal, saying the deputy speaker had rejected the attempt to change the regime by a foreign conspiracy.

“Billions of rupees” that had been spent to buy lawmakers’ votes would be wasted, he continued, advising those who had taken money to donate it to orphanages and the poor.

Last Sunday, in a show of power ahead of the no-confidence motion, Khan addressed a huge gathering in Islamabad and claimed that “foreign powers are involved in a conspiracy” to topple his government.

In recent weeks, he has continually accused the opposition of colluding with the United States to unseat him, saying the Biden administration wants him out over his foreign policy.

Khan was a vocal opponent of the US-led war on terror and Pakistan’s role in that war as a frontline ally of Washington.

During talks with foreign journalists followed by an interview with the ARY News channel on Saturday, Khan continued to criticize the United States.

“The United States conspired with the opposition on the no-confidence motion,” Khan said. “Democracy depends on moral supremacy; what moral supremacy authority remains after this collusion?

“Today, politicians are being auctioned off like goats, under an external conspiracy,” he said. “How can I accept the consequences of mistrust when the whole process is unreliable? The move to oust me is a clear US intervention in Pakistani politics.”

Khan termed it part of a foreign conspiracy to remove him for following an independent foreign policy.

On Thursday, the State Department and the White House in separate briefings categorically rejected allegations that the US had threatened the Pakistani government through a letter.

Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, said that there was “no truth” to the allegations. “We are closely following developments in Pakistan, and we respect, we support Pakistan’s constitutional process and the rule of law,” he added.

In the context of the US-Pakistan deteriorating relations, The Media Line spoke with senior analysts.

Michael Kugelman, the Washington-based deputy director of the Asia Program and senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center, told The Media Line, “The US-Pakistan relationship will take a hit from the events of the last few days. Relations haven’t been bad of late. Uncertain and unsettled, but not in crisis.

“Khan’s address to the nation showed how he continues to play the long game. He gave the speech, not with an eye to April 3, but to the many months that will follow, onward to the next election. It was a stump speech. He’s positioning himself for his next electoral run,” Kugelman said.

“Over the history of US-Pakistan relations, it’s been quite common for officials on both sides, in private conversations, to vent and share personal and negative assessments on current developments. It’s a stretch to liken this to a threat, much less an indication of regime change,” he said.

“Imran Khan is leveraging ‘the letter’ for full political effect. If he loses the no-confidence vote, he’ll say he was victimized by an international conspiracy. If he survives, he’ll say he defied the conspiracy. The more ambiguous he is about the letter, the more effective this will be,” Kugelman said.

Adil Faroque, a Rawalpindi-based senior security analyst, told The Media Line, “The USA’s practices of regime change are a well-known and acknowledged phenomenon.

“Wherever US interests cannot be secured through state-to-state harassment, the US resorts to regime change through the CIA. Books and declassified US documents prove this,” Faroque claimed.

“The US would obviously officially deny any such charges as in the case of Pakistan, but precedence exists of such US attitudes in the past,” he said.

“The US-Pakistan relationship is otherwise souring due to the growing Indo-US nexus, wherein India is Pakistan’s archrival,” Faroque said.

Irina Tsukerman, a New York-based national security expert, told The Media Line, “Increasingly, the troubled PM Imran Khan is seeking to find scapegoats and shift blame for both the economic problems in Pakistan and his personal travails.

“It is no coincidence that he has chosen to blame the US for the no-confidence motion against him,” she added.

“Once a preferred candidate in the Western circles, seen as a liberal-minded reformist who would be fighting corruption and extremism, and restore a strong relationship with the US, Khan failed to live up to the expectations in US policy circles and lost support, including financial aid,” Tsukerman said.

“Encouraging Khan to shift the blame onto the US will only draw Pakistan closer to China and Russia. Pakistan is moving away from the US and into the influence sphere of the Eastern Bloc,” she noted.

“Khan is taking advantage of the fact that the White House is currently preoccupied with other matters and is not paying much attention, having already written off Pakistan and prioritized the Iran deal and the Russia-Ukraine conflict,” Tsukerman said.

Mohsin Shahid, who is working on his doctorate in defense and strategic studies at Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad, told The Media Line, “The language in the letter is, of course, unprecedented as highlighted by the National Security Committee.

“Diplomatic cables are a norm that uses diplomatic language following the Vienna Convention. The timing of the cable and its links with political upheaval in Pakistan are instrumental where the incumbent government has taken up the issue for a political lifeline amid economic crisis,” Shahid said.

“US-Pakistan relations have never been at play in domestic politics the way they are today. This is not only problematic for the [Pakistani] establishment but also for the US’s larger interests in the country and in the region,” he said.

“What is more interesting is that unlike in the past, anti-Americanism is not coming from a religious party, rather it is being instrumentalized by an internationally recognized leader [Khan] who has his domestic roots among the youth and international stature with the global community,” Shahid said.

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