In a clear snub to the Imran Khan government on Thursday, Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial observed that not counting votes of MPs during the no-confidence motion would be “contemptuous”. A 5-judge bench of Pakistan’s Supreme Court was hearing the presidential reference filed by the PTI government for the interpretation of Article 63A. Interestingly, this Article makes an MP liable for disqualification only if he formally resigns from the party or disobeys the party whip on the election of PM or CM, no-confidence motion, a money bill, or a Constitutional amendment bill.
Because the existing wording of the law goes against it, PTI is banking on the SC passing an order to the effect that the dissident parliamentarians of the ruling party cannot cast their vote. In the alternative, it wants MPs who violate the party whip to be disqualified for life. While acknowledging that the “spirit of Article 63A cannot be ignored”, Chief Justice Bandial stated that this matter should be resolved in the Parliament rather than filing a reference. The hearing was adjourned to Friday when the session of the National Assembly commences.
Imran Khan’s test of survival
After completing three and a half years in power, the Imran Khan-led government is under fire over the surging inflation, increasing debt, misgovernance and mishandling of foreign policy which is reflected in the stalling of CPEC projects and US President Joe Biden’s snub. On March 8, Pakistan’s main opposition parties filed a no-confidence motion against Khan. As PTI has only 155 members in the 342-member National Assembly, the government’s survival depends on the support of allies such as MQM-P (7 seats), BAP (5 seats), PML(Q) (5 seats), GDA (3 seats), AML (1 seat), JWP (1 seat) and 2 Independents.
On the other hand, the opposition has a total of 162 seats. As it requires at least 172 out of 342 votes to topple the Imran Khan-led government, the opposition has reached out to PML(Q), BAP and MQM-P. While 13 PTI MPs have openly expressed displeasure with the government’s functioning, at least 14 other parliamentarians of the ruling party are also likely to vote against the 1992 World Cup-winning captain during the no-trust motion.