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Political Flux in Pak: Imran Should Beware the Ides of March

Pakistan is in for torrid political times – the Ides of March. The Opposition Parties led by the PMLN, PPP and the JUIF the latter two forming the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), have worked up a viable strategy for downing the Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) government led by Mr Imran Khan, the cricket captain turned politician.

The Arithmetic of No Confidence Motion

The Opposition is pitching for a vote of non confidence in the national assembly to get rid of the PTI led coalition where much will depend on two factors – whether the dissident faction of the PTI and Khan's coalition partners — PML-Q, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA).

The political allies of the government have 17 MNA in the National Assembly. In case they join the opposition the ruling party strength will be 162 down from 179.

To pass the no-trust motion, the Opposition needs the backing of 172 MNAs with 341 members in the National Assembly, with one seat empty.

An additional factor is the dissident MNAs of the PTI JKT camp which claims to have 8 to 10 MNAs in Centre and 22 to 26 MPAs in Punjab. The validation of their vote has brought in Article 63 A of the Constitution.

As per the Dawn News, one interpretation of Article 63-A is that a parliamentarian can be disqualified on grounds of defection if he "votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the parliamentary party to which he belongs, in relation to election of the prime minister or chief minister; or a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or a money bill or a Constitution (amendment) bill".

The PTI claims that the National Assembly Speakers will disqualify the dissidents as they would be voting for the NCM against the Party whip, while the Opposition claims that disqualification can only be undertaken after the vote and following a due process of providing show-cause notice.

Conspiracy or the US Angle

A third narrative that is being bandied in the conspiracy circles in Rawalpindi and Islamabad is that the Joe Biden administration wants Imran out given his appearance in Moscow on the day Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the war in Ukraine amongst a pile-up of legacy factors that have blanched relations between U.S. and Pakistan in the past year after the Democrat Administration has taken office in Washington.

This is based on the past ties of President Joe Biden with the PML N supremo Nawaz Sharif and the PPP Co-Chair Asif Ali Zardari.

When will the NCM be Held?

A delegation of senior opposition lawmakers has submitted the no-trust motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan with the National Assembly Secretariat as per PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb. Based on the parliament rules, the speaker must has to convene the National Assembly on March 22 and voting on the no-confidence motion has to take place between March 26 and March 30.

Political Developments Leading to NCM

In the latest development, several media reports indicated that the dissenting MNAs of the PTI were staying at Sindh House to prevent pressure by the ruling party and the security set up. This is apparently a clear indication that they would go against their party in the upcoming no-trust move.

T.V. footage showed lawmakers from the PTI such as MNAs Noor Alam Khan, Basit Bukhari and Wajiha Qamar with 24 PTI lawmakers are staying at the Sindh House due to fears of government action against them similar to the March 10 raid by police on Parliament Lodges.

PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari claimed that MNAs had been "threatened with violence, arrests and dire consequences" if they participated in the no-confidence vote. "Their lives, liberty and family are under threat. MNAs will take any and all means for their own protection against this fascist regime," he said

Khan Fight Back

True to form, Mr Imran Khan is fighting back and has not thrown in the towel.

Mr Khan is planning a major rally in Islamabad on March 27, against what he called "the three thieves" to tell the world that they are against the "hypocrites and the allies of the United States". Three PTI leaders — Shehbaz Gill, Kanwal Shauzab and Zahid Hussain Kazmi have submitted an application with Deputy Commissioner of Islamabad Hamza Shafqat, seeking an NOC for holding the public meeting at D-Chowk.

The prime minister is also accusing the Opposition of bribing the dissident MNAs. Khan said that PPP Chief Zardari had funds earmarked to force PTI members to switch loyalties. "One of my MNAs told me he was offered Rs200 million," he claimed.

Wither Pakistan Army

The role of Pakistan Army in nudging or coercing the MNAs either way has been recognized by political observers over a period, though the military continues to claim that it does not indulge in politics. The choice with the army is to go with what it perceives as public sentiment which appears to be building up for the Opposition.

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