By Mrityunjoy Kumar Jha
New Delhi, February 28: As the long march to oust Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan kicked off on Sunday from Karachi to Islamabad, opposition leaders have urged the military establishment to remain neutral as they table a no-confidence motion against the government of Imran Khan.
One of the main voters of the opposition parties. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman Bilalwal Bhutto claimed the combined opposition had the support of 200 lawmakers, enough to “kick out” Imran Khan and his government with a vote of no confidence. According to Pakistan’s constitution, opposition parties only need 172 votes out of the 342 seats in the National Assembly to win the vote of no confidence.
“The current situation facing Pakistan encourages us to hope that this time every military institution would stay within its constitutional framework and leave the politics to the politicians. We strongly hope that the establishment will stay neutral. And if the establishment stays neutral , Imran Khan is not going to win this no-confidence decision,” the Dawn newspaper reported, according to Bilawal.
Asked when the motion of no confidence would be tabled in the Pakistani National Assembly, Bilwal said the first or second week of March would be crucial in this regard.
“That’s all I can say, leave the timing to us. Motions of no confidence are much more complex than they appear,” said PPP co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari, who was tasked with obtaining the magic number required to win the vote of no confidence against the government of Imran Khan.
Opposition parties have not only pinned their hopes on their allies for support, but claim that some ruling PTI parliamentarians were also in contact with them and were only waiting for a signal from the “powerful military establishment” before leave the ship.
According to Pakistani experts, a large number of politicians in the ranks of the ruling PTI are those who have no ideological ties to any political party. They are known as political professionals who always pick the winning side and have enough contacts in the “institutions” that decide the fate of elections in Pakistan to determine which party will lose.
“For these politicians, the time to make decisions for the next legislative elections has arrived. They feel the wind of change blowing against the PTI but they want the assurance of having tickets”, explains an expert.
The opposition says its top priority is to focus on ousting Imran Khan and tackling other important issues after a successful no-confidence vote. These issues include who will be the prime minister, what will be the composition of the new government, how long will this government last, not all or some provincial assemblies will also be dissolved, and national and provincial elections will be held simultaneously as in the past.
According to insiders, they are fine-tuning their plans in consultation with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who is in London. Being the largest constituent of the united opposition, there is an agreement that his brother Shabaz Sharif will become prime minister while the PPP gets the seat of president.
But what happens if, sensing trouble, Imran Khan decides to dissolve the chamber and opts for new elections?
“Imran Khan will remain the prime minister until the election results in this case. He is feeling the heat and trying to come to terms with the military establishment. He is trying to reach out to his friend-turned-enemy sugar baron Jahangir Khan Tareen who claims to control more than 30 MPs from Khan’s ruling party,” the pundit says, adding that now is the right time for the opposition to strike.
“If the opposition drags its feet much longer on the vote of no confidence, there will be a credibility problem,” said the expert.