By Arab News
By Aamir Saeed
Imran Khan on Sunday became the first Pakistani Prime Minister to lose a no-confidence vote, after failing in a last-ditch effort to block a vote that the country’s Supreme Court had said must be held on Saturday.
Pakistan’s parliament began voting late on Saturday night on a no-confidence motion against Khan, after a 13-hour impasse in which parliament was adjourned four times.
Just ahead of the vote, Pakistan’s powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa met Khan to resolve the impasse. Media subsequently reported that Khan had left the Prime Minister House in Islamabad via helicopter and moved to his private residence in Bani Gala on the outskirts of the capital.
Members of Khan’s party had suggested on Friday they would try to delay the vote as much as possible.
“174 members have recorded their votes in favor of the resolution,” opposition politician Ayaz Sadiq, who chaired the session, announced. “Consequently the resolution for the vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan … has been passed by a majority of the total membership of the national assembly.”
“Now once again, the Pakistan of law and the constitution is born,” Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Shebaz Sharif, the frontrunner for next prime minister, said in a speech after the result was announced. “We want to move forward and make Pakistan great again.”
“I congratulate the whole house and all of Pakistan that for the first time in history a no-confidence vote has succeeded and we have made history,” Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the co-chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party, said in a speech after the vote.
Khan was due to face the no-trust vote last Sunday, but National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, an ally of the PM, disallowed voting on the motion, saying it was motivated by a “foreign conspiracy” and hence “unconstitutional.” The president then dissolved parliament on Khan’s advice.
In a closely watched verdict, the Supreme Court on Thursday declared the deputy speaker’s ruling void and reinstated parliament, ordering the no-trust vote be held in parliament on Saturday.
After several adjournments on Saturday, parliament finally began voting on the no-trust motion in a session broadcast live on Pakistani state TV.
“Sad day for Pakistan,” former information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, a close Khan ally, said moments before the result of the vote was announced. “A good man sent home.”
After a prime minister loses the vote, parliament can continue to function until its five-year tenure ends in August 2023, after which a general election is due within 60 days. There will be a vote in the National Assembly to elect a new prime minister to serve until then. Candidates can be put forward by any party with legislators in the assembly.
The new prime minister can, however, call a general election immediately, without waiting until 2023.
Some constitutional analysts say the assembly can be dissolved and a general election held if no candidate can secure a majority of votes to become the prime minister.
Khan had lost majority in the National Assembly in recent weeks after defections by dozens of his party’s lawmakers and abandonment by his coalition partners.
The opposition had blamed the former PM for mismanaging the economy as well as foreign policy failures and poor governance.
Opposition parties required 172 votes, a simple majority, in the 342-member National Assembly for the no-trust motion to prevail. They got 174 votes.