Too close to my writing this column Sunday afternoon, the Supreme Court of Pakistan was reported to have taken notice of the unprecedented happenings in the National Assembly early this morning.
A motion of no-confidence against Prime Minister Imran Khan had appropriately been presented in the National Assembly with the advent of this week. The count on the said motion was expected to take place during Sunday’s sitting.
But almost an hour before the start of the sitting, the opposition victoriously entered the house with 176 members; around 25 members who had already announced rebellion from within the ruling party were not included among them. That clearly indicated that the opposition was able to collect four additional members required to vote out a sitting Prime Minister (172). The treasury benches, on the contrary, looked nearly deserted.
We kept waiting and waiting for the start of the sitting, however. Eventually, Qasim Suri took the presiding chair and after the opening rituals instantly gave the floor to Fawad Chaudhry.
Being the Information Minister, Fawad Chaudhry commands and controls media management for the Imran government. But on Saturday he was also given additional charge of the Law Ministry. He cleverly utilised the additional powers to passionately plead the case that (ugly and scheming — you may refer to the 1958 novel) Americans motivated the opposition parties to strike against Prime Minister Imran Khan by moving the motion of no confidence against him.
To prove his point, he repeatedly referred to a meeting that an Assistant Secretary of the US State Department had held with Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington, “in presence of note takers,” on March 7, 2022.
During the said meeting, Chaudhry went on to say, the US official expressed deep annoyance over Imran Khan’s recent visit to Russia, where he met President Putin too close to launching a war on Ukraine in the first week of February. Our ambassador was also told that Pakistan’s Prime Minister had gone to Russia, while allegedly disregarding the advice presumably furnished by the security and foreign policy officials of Pakistan.
Exclusively blaming Imran Khan for changing Pakistan’s foreign policy, apparently on his own, the US diplomat then switched to “transmitting threats”. Fawad Chaudhry insisted that Imran Khan’s removal through a vote of no confidence was also mentioned in the said context. Hopes were also expressed that Pakistan’s relations with the USA will get “normal and friendly”, once Imran Khan is no longer the Prime Minister of Pakistan due to the no confidence motion.
In short, he forcefully built the case that the opposition had pushed the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan to please (the ugly and scheming) Americans. Spinning the conspiracy theory also helped the Law Minister to invoke Article 5-A of our Constitution that wants the state institutions to combat the nefarious designs of foreign countries vigorously. Referring to this article, he pleaded that instead of going for the headcount on non-confidence motion, the Chair should “reject” it.
The Deputy Speaker’s patriotic passions were already boiling in full steam. He instantly obliged Fawad Chaudhry by “rejecting” the no-confidence motion and prorogued the House.
Suri’s decision ignited patriotic zeal among the PTI members. They all left their seats and huddled around the Speaker’s dais and relentlessly kept chanting full-throated slogans against America. Its “friends” were also called “traitors” with contemptuous zeal.
The opposition benches looked visibly baffled. Appearing almost numb with unprecedented dismissal of a parliamentary motion on ‘patriotic grounds,’ they felt clueless regarding their next move. Some of their leaders, especially Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the youthful chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party, appeared pursuing the line that all of them should keep sitting in the House.
But “the House” he wanted to keep ‘intact’ had already been “dissolved”. Precisely during the moments the National Assembly was dealing with no-confidence motion, Prime Minister Imran Khan, instead of coming to the House went live on the official TV of Pakistan to tell the nation that he had posted the advice of dissolving the national assembly to the President. Such advice is binding for the head of our state. Going by the book, therefore, Pakistan is currently functioning without an elected national assembly.
We now have to look for establishing a caretaker government, specifically assigned the task of holding fresh elections to prop a new National Assembly. For a law-illiterate like me, after filing the no-confidence motion against him, Imran had lost the authority of seeking dissolution of the National Assembly. But the Deputy Speaker of the now “dissolved” House had “rejected” the said motion, with the visible intent of empowering the Prime Minister to go for it.
Only the Supreme Court of Pakistan can now clarify the deep confusion the Imran government had triggered with audacious-looking decisions on Sunday. Lest you forget, 1993 the Supreme Court of Pakistan had firmly upturned the decision of dissolving the National Assembly. The then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan had gone for the same while employing powers he relished due to the 8th amendment of our constitution. The said decision was wildly welcomed as “historic.”
But the Supreme Court clearly appeared facilitating the rise and rise of Imran Khan since 2016 by taking suo motu notice of the so-called Panama Papers. The then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, was perceived as one of the beneficiaries of the offshore, tax evading company, presumably established to hide “ill gotten wealth”.
At the end of dramatic and day-to-day hearings of the same case, Nawaz Sharif was declared guilty for not revealing “the salary,” he allegedly had been getting from a “company” run by his son. After calling him a “liar and cheat,” the Supreme Court also banned him from contesting election to any representative house for the rest of his life.
Through another case, heard by the same Supreme Court, however, Imran Khan had been declared SADIQ and AMIN (sagacious and trustworthy). This ‘certification’ helped Imran Khan to eventually reach the Prime Minister’s Office in August 2018.
We have to watch and wait how this time around, the Supreme Court judges him and his close aides for audaciously eluding a motion of no-confidence by igniting ‘patriotic’ passions.