Imran Khan isn't alone: When Pakistan prime ministers faced a no-confidence vote

Former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Shaukat Aziz had faced similar no-confidence motions in Pakistan, but they survived. The same can't be said for Imran Khan who hangs on to power by a thread

FP Explainers March 30, 2022 16:26:10 IST
Imran Khan isn't alone: When Pakistan prime ministers faced a no-confidence vote

Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan is trying his hardest to hang on to power. AP

Is this the end for Pakistan’s Imran Khan?

The Pakistan prime minister’s fall from grace is all but certain as reports state that a key coalition partner, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM-P), has switched allegiance ahead of a parliamentary no-confidence vote that could be held as early as this weekend.

The debate on the no-confidence motion is due to start Thursday, leaving Imran Khan scrambling to keep his own Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) members on side — as well as a slew of minority parties.

Also read: Explained: Why things don’t look good for Pakistan's Imran Khan as he faces biggest political crisis

On paper, the PTI and coalition partners have 176 seats in the 342-member assembly, but on Wednesday, the MQM-P said its seven lawmakers would vote with the Opposition, which has a combined 163 seats.

More than a dozen PTI lawmakers have also indicated they will cross the floor, although party leaders are trying to get the courts to prevent them from voting.

This is not the first time in the history of Pakistan’s democracy that a prime minister has faced a vote of no-confidence, but Imran Khan could be the first to be ousted through one.

Infamously, no prime minister in Pakistan’s history has ever completed their full term, either. Should Khan survive the upcoming vote, he might still have a shot at doing so.

We take a look back and see how history is repeating itself.

Benazir’s no-confidence vote

Pakistan’s first no-confidence motion was brought against former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1989.

On 2 November 1989, Bhutto heaved a sigh of relief after barely defeating a parliamentary motion of no confidence that would have brought down her year-old government.

The no-confidence motion was brought in by Nawaz Sharif. The Opposition at the time had contended that the prime minister devoted too much time to partisan politics and that she was too headstrong to listen to her allies.

Of the 237 members of Parliament, 107 voted to support the motion of no-confidence, 12 short of the 119 needed; 125 voted with Bhutto, and five were absent.

Following her victory, she was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times, “I think it is time for reflection. Reflection by the government and by the moderate opposition. The no-confidence motion should have given everyone food for thought.”

Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, the then opposition leader in Parliament, and Nawaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province, said that the number of votes cast against Bhutto constituted a moral victory for the Opposition.

Imran Khan isnt alone When Pakistan prime ministers faced a noconfidence vote

Benazir Bhutto was the first Pakistani prime minister to face a no-confidence motion in November 1989. AFP

2006 — another no-confidence vote

The Opposition also filed a no-confidence vote against former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz for the second time in Pakistan history back in August 2006, which was not successful as Shaukat Aziz won.

The Opposition needed 172 votes in the 342-member National Assembly to pass a no-confidence resolution against Shaukat Aziz, but they only got 136, while Shaukat received 201 votes.

Aziz, a career banker, was elected prime minister in 2004 after securing 191 votes in the 342-member National Assembly, or lower house of Parliament.

The no-confidence motion was brought against Aziz on the basis of corruption allegations. However, Aziz had refuted the claims, saying the Opposition was indulging in "negative politics."

"My hands are clean," he had said after the vote, adding that he had always respected the Constitution and worked for the supremacy of Parliament, the rule of law and to strengthen democratic institutions in the country.

Imran’s no-confidence vote

On 28 March, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif tabled no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan in the National Assembly.

The cricketer-turned-politician has been accused of mismanaging the nation’s economy.

Also read: Pak Opposition moves no-confidence in Imran: How Pak PM could lose his chair

Khan, 69, came to power in 2018 with 176 votes. He now requires votes from 172 lawmakers to remain in power. His PTI has 155 members in the 342-member National Assembly. Khan’s major allies seem to be looking the other way, while many party members are revolting against him, giving more confidence to the opposition parties that they can dislodge the government.

With inputs from agencies

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