Political googlies by Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi leave one wondering: How democracy works in Pakistan?
The answer to this question lies in a simple fact. Only two no-trust motions were earlier brought in the National Assembly of Pakistan, where no prime minister has completed his or her full term.
Both the no-trust motions were defeated against the Benazir Bhutto government in 1989 and against the Shaukat Aziz government in 2006.
The third time, when the no-trust motion was brought against the Imran Khan government, the Opposition smelled victory for the first time in a democratic floor test. But the cricketer-turned-politician swung the ball to the court of people.
ASSEMBLY DISSOLVED, IMRAN DE-NOTIFIED
As the prime minister, Imran Khan recommended President Alvi to dissolve the National Assembly which he did. This made the next parliamentary polls inevitable in Pakistan within 90 days. This also gave a window for Imran Khan to stay the course as the prime minister.
PRESSURE ON PRESIDENT
The dismissal of Imran Khan by President Arif Alvi is interesting. He could have asked Imran Khan to continue as the caretaker prime minister as Article 94 of Pakistan’s constitution provides for such an arrangement. But Arif Alvi was under pressure from the joint Opposition front which was seeking even his removal from the president’s office.
The Opposition was looking to impeach the president. It had planned to secure impeachment motions from all four provinces of Pakistan. However, Alvi moved closer to the Opposition by denying Imran Khan a longer rope to hang on to power in Pakistan.
UNTIL CARETAKER IS CHOSEN
In a post-midnight post on Twitter, President Alvi’s office announced that Imran Khan would continue as the prime minister “till the appointment of caretaker Prime Minister under Article 224 A (4) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan”.
Article 224A(4) of Pakistan’s constitution provides that now Imran Khan can continue as the prime minister for 15 days. But Imran Khan may not have the same powers to make decisions as enjoyed by an elected head of the government.
There is another problem. This provision is designed for the situation where there is a National Assembly in place. Imran Khan got it dissolved. It is not clear if the president can appoint a caretaker prime minister in Pakistan after sacking the incumbent and in the absence of an elected house of the people.
HOW IT HAPPENED?
Imran Khan was facing a certain defeat during the voting on the no-trust motion moved by the joint Opposition front on Sunday. The National Assembly was being chaired by its deputy speaker, Qasim Suri, who declared the no-trust motion “unconstitutional”. The Opposition move was invalidated.
The legality of this action of the deputy speaker was questioned by the Opposition. Pakistan’s Supreme Court has agreed to hear the matter. It now has to decide whether the deputy speaker acted against the constitution or the no-trust motion was unconstitutional.
Imran Khan used his trump card.
For long Imran Khan claimed that “a foreign hand” wanted to bring his government down. He also claimed that he had “a trump card” up his sleeve.
Imran Khan used this “foreign hand” claim as a weapon and brandished the purported letter as proof in his public addresses. The same claim was used in the National Assembly to declare the no-trust motion unconstitutional.
Actually, Article 5 of Pakistan’s constitution says that “loyalty to the State is the basic duty of every citizen”. The Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) are also citizens of the country.
Imran Khan claimed that the Opposition leaders were hand in glove with the foreign plotters. Imran Khan’s minister objected to the no-trust motion on Sunday the day of voting citing “a foreign hand” and thus questioning the loyalty of the Opposition which moved the motion under Article 5.
The deputy speaker found merit and evidence in the claim and declared the motion unconstitutional. This saved the Imran Khan government a certain defeat in the National Assembly a trump card that Imran Khan had been claiming of having to “surprise” the Opposition.
As the political pitch worsened, Imran Khan tried to dictate the game.
The development in the National Assembly offered Imran Khan another window of opportunity to play his game. Imran Khan advised President Arif Alvi to dissolve the National Assembly.
Article 58 of Pakistan’s constitution makes it binding on the president to dissolve the National Assembly if advised so by the prime minister. If the president doesn’t dissolve the National Assembly, it would be considered dissolved at the lapse of 48 hours since the prime minister’s advice.
This apparent masterstroke became a catch when President Alvi asked Imran Khan to continue as the prime minister for 15 days. Article 224 of Pakistan’s constitution says that once a notification for de-notifying the prime minister is issued invoking this Article, the individual could continue as the prime minister for 15 days.
A caretaker prime minister will be appointed within this timeframe. So, Imran Khan stays as Pakistan’s prime minister for 15 days after having “ceased to be in the office with immediate effect” on late Sunday night.
Imran Khan has already started preparing for the parliamentary polls. Though, the Opposition still hopes for a favourable order from the Supreme Court on invalidation of the no-trust motion and dissolution of the National Assembly.
In the Supreme Court, the Opposition hopes to draw more power from Pakistan’s constitution. It said Imran Khan and the deputy speaker committed high treason under Article 6 of the constitution by refusing voting on the no-trust motion and dissolving the National Assembly while President Arif Alvi acted against the constitution.
If violation of Article 6 is proven against any of the persons in Pakistan, this calls for arrest and subsequent legal penalties. Speculation is already rife in Pakistan that Imran Khan may be arrested in days and weeks to come. The political crisis in Pakistan sets the stage for a new government through election or otherwise.
Does Imran have an upper hand in the polls?
As things stand now, Imran Khan seems to have gained from the political crisis of Pakistan. He may continue to be in this advantageous position if the Pakistan Army doesn’t shrug off current ‘neutrality’ to take direct control of the government. Imran Khan knows this too well.
Having denounced the Pakistan Army’s neutrality earlier saying “only animals remain neutral”, Imran Khan in his latest remark praised the army for staying neutral in “a foreign plot” to bring down his government.
Imran Khan has addressed the public saying he has been a victim of foreign conspiracy for putting Pakistan’s interests and pride above all, particularly in the context of the Russia-Ukraine war. He said even the Opposition failed to understand that it became puppet at the hands of foreign conspirators.
On no-trust motion, Imran Khan dared the Opposition to prove its mandate in the people’s court than the legislature which he said had been rigged.
IS SOMEBODY CALLING THE SHOTS?
Imran Khan has created a political mess for his rivals as he attempted to come out of the maze built by the Opposition. Besides the national politics, Imran Khan opened a new front in Punjab, the most significant province in Pakistan’s politics.
Imran Khan not only delayed the election of the chief minister in Punjab which is facing a political crisis coterminous with the national one, but also replaced its governor. This is significant as the Opposition parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan Peoples Party, had struck a deal in Punjab. Imran Khan’s ally-turned-rival PML-Q was also likely to gain from the deal.
Now, Imran Khan has engineered a chaos for the Opposition to deal with while placing himself as the front-runner in a likely parliamentary election in Pakistan.
Reports from Pakistan suggest that Imran Khan has reignited people’s interest in his campaign to build Naya Pakistan. The complaints of rising prices, inefficient governance and corruption in the government have subsided in political conversation.
Imran Khan appears to be getting sympathy from the public, a sizeable chunk of whom reportedly view him as a victim. Imran Khan is still considered as an honest individual by his supporters. Also, the absence of Nawaz Sharif with a pan-Pakistan appeal is helping Imran Khan run his narrative almost unimpeded.
But all of this holds the ground only until the Pakistan Army’s troops haven’t cleared it for their chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, recently told new naval officers: “If you think I call the shots in this country then you have no idea who Imran Khan is.”
(Source: INDIA TODAY)