The National Assembly session to decide the fate of Prime Minister Imran Khan has been adjourned yet again and is now expected to resume at 9:30 pm after Isha prayers.
Speaker Asad Qaiser was chairing today’s session when it began at 10:30 in the morning, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s directives, and with the recitation of the Holy Quran.
However, Amjad Ali Khan Niazi chaired the session for a brief period as the session resumed after the adjournment before Qaiser returned.
Voting on the no-confidence motion against the prime minister is the fourth item on the day’s agenda but it has yet to happen. Since morning, opposition and treasury members have been giving speeches on the floor of the house.
While the opposition came out in full force, very few members of the treasury benches were in attendance before the session was adjourned. Prime Minister Imran Khan was also not present.
The opposition needs the support of at least 172 lawmakers from a total of 342 to oust the premier through the no-trust move.
A meeting was held between the treasury and opposition benches in the speaker’s chamber after the session was adjourned, where the latter called for holding proceedings according to the Supreme Court’s directives.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and PTI leader Amir Dogar participated from the government’s side while Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Rana Sanaullah, Ayaz Sadiq, Naveed Qamar and Maulana Asad Mahmood represented the opposition.
Following this, a meeting of the opposition’s parliamentary group was called at the opposition leader’s chamber. PML-N’s Khawaja Saad Rafique, speaking in the NA after the adjournment, said that the speaker had promised that voting would be held after Iftar.
Separately, the government sent a review petition to the apex court against its decision to set aside the deputy speaker’s April 3 ruling. The petition, however, is yet to be filed since the officers of the court did not process it on receipt as they close early in Ramazan. According to the PTI’s counsel Azhar Siddique, it will be processed on Monday.
SHAH MAHMOOD QURESHI: As the session began after adjournment, Qureshi took the floor once again and lambasted the fact that lawmakers switched their loyalties for material gain.
“Are those powers who have sworn to uphold the Constitution not seeing this bazar?” he asked, adding that the nation was well aware of how votes were bought and sold during last year’s Senate elections.
“We raised objections […] we presented those videos in the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The PTI kept knocking on the ECP’s doors for a year. After this struggle, the arguments were concluded. [But] despite the lapse of a year, the judgement is reserved, and we have not gotten justice,” he lamented.
The foreign minister also said that “blatant attempts” for changing the regime were not hidden. Striking a philosophical note, he said that man was temporary, but facts could not be suppressed. “History will expose those who have run this entire drama […] the pen of the historian does not forgive anyone.”
Qureshi said that the prime minister had called on the nation to decide whether they would live as a sovereign state or would remain slaves.
“Pakistan is standing at the crossroads of history. The nation has to decide whether we will live with our heads bowed or with our heads held high,” he said.
Acknowledging that today may perhaps be his last day as foreign minister, Qureshi said he wanted to take the house into confidence. He maintained that the process for the prime minister’s Russia visit was set in motion two months before it was scheduled.
The prime minister decided to go after consulting with officials, he said, adding that the prime objective behind it was to benefit Pakistan.
“We called and consulted Pakistan’s seasoned diplomats, academics and some media persons at PM House regarding the pros and cons of undertaking the visit. it was decided with mutual consultation that it would be in Pakistan’s interest to go ahead with it.
“We are a sovereign state. We do not want to bear the yoke of slavery,” he said. He also stated that prior to the visit, the US national security adviser (NSA) called his Pakistani counterpart with one message: Don’t go. Qureshi questioned how a sovereign state could be stopped from a bilateral visit in this manner.
He added that once the decision to go was made, Pakistan decided to give its input on the Ukraine war. “Pakistan is a country that believes in the United Nations charter and self-determination, and we have never supported the use of force. We reiterated that in the UN General Assembly and when the American NSA gave us the message.”
He also highlighted how Pakistani citizens were evacuated from Ukraine as the Russian invasion began. “We made what efforts [we could]. There was talk of humanitarian assistance, I sent it myself.”
Qureshi also talked about the recently held meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
“The Afghan issue, the Kashmir issue and the Ukraine issue were raised […] we built consensus among 57 countries of the Islamic ummah,” he noted, saying that the Islamabad Declaration would go down in history.
Talking about the “threat letter”, the foreign minister noted how the opposition had termed it to be fake while PML-N’s Maryam Nawaz had alleged it was drafted in the Foreign Office.
“This is a very big claim. I am fasting and I am saying with God as my witness that we were not lying but presenting the facts to the nation. The document that I received and read was authentic,” he said, calling on the opposition to not question the professionalism of seasoned diplomats.
“If the opposition members still have questions about that document, I will give a briefing in parliament. Let’s go for an in-camera session and let the ambassador to the US tell us whether he stands by what he sent.
“Is it not a threat if you are told that there will be very bad consequences if you do not desist, that Pakistan will be forgiven if the no-confidence motion is passed but will be isolated if the motion fails?”
He stated that Pakistan had long-standing relations with the US. “We want to have good relations with them, our objective is not to spoil [relations]. But the US wants Pakistan to offer support on all issues important to them,” he said.
The minister also talked about India’s “accidental” fire of a missile into Pakistan. “There was no loss of life but when we asked them for an explanation, they said it was accidental. Will India tell this to the UN Security Council (UNSC)?”
Qureshi said he had written to the UNSC and said the accidental fire could have led to an “accidental war”. “It is such a dangerous game that India has played. Where were the standard operating procedures and the protocols?”
Talking about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), he said that the PTI government felt that this was a project that would enhance regional connectivity and lift millions of people out of poverty.
He stated that PTI government’s foreign policy called for good relations with every country and to increase Pakistan’s diplomatic space.
“We want good relations with everyone and don’t want to be hostile with any country. That has been our policy,” he said.
He recalled how the PPP talked about the sovereignty and supremacy of parliament, adding that he was in agreement with them. He went on to say that the deputy speaker’s ruling had the “concept of finality”, the rejection of which would open up a pandora’s box.
Qureshi also noted how the opposition had alleged that the ambassador to the US was abruptly transferred so that he could escape questions.
“He completed his three-year tenure on January 11 and we were making a new posting plan for Brussels. Why was I sending him to Brussels? Because he is a seasoned and polished diplomat.”
He rejected the claims that the “threat letter” was fake, adding that the meeting in Washington took place on March 7.
“On March 8, the no-confidence motion was submitted against the prime minister. Look at how these things coincided,” he said, calling for holding an in-camera session.
Turning to the opposition, he said that they had been calling for elections for the last three-and-a-half years. “They said the elections were not fair and said that Imran Khan was selected. Now when the prime minister said let’s hold elections and see what the nation wants, they are not ready for it,” he said, calling for the nation to decide.
He called on lawmakers to not push Pakistan into a constitutional crisis and to go for fresh elections. ‘Why are you scared of the nation?” he asked the opposition benches. He added that all of the nation’s political parties were on one side while PM Imran was on the other.
BILAWAL SPEECH: Bilawal began by telling Niazi he was violating the Constitution and the court’s orders. “You cannot take up anything else except for what is on the agenda. Not only you, but the speaker also did the same,” he told him, demanding that voting is held on the no-confidence motion.
At this, Niazi told the PPP chairman that the court can’t intervene in parliamentary matters. Bilawal replied by saying that Niazi would be disqualified for violating the law, adding that this was not the first time the court had set aside the speaker’s ruling.
Turning his guns on PM Imran, Bilawal said that the premier was breaking the law on his way out of office. “If you want to be involved in it, then it’s your choice. But I had warned the prime minister to stay away from the man speaking before me,” he said, referring to the foreign minister.
The PPP chairman alleged that FM Qureshi was responsible for the premier’s troubles, again calling for voting to be held on the no-confidence motion. “If you don’t come to today’s agenda, then you should know that the opposition will not leave […] we will snatch our constitutional rights from you.”
He said that the government had lost its majority in the assembly. “We can debate on the foreign conspiracy for 100 days but first conduct voting.”
Bilawal alleged that the government had told several lies in this whole saga. The supposed conversation took place on March 7 and the no-confidence was presented on March 8, he noted.
“But there is a time difference between Pakistan and America which means that the no-trust move was presented as the conversation was underway.”
He claimed that those who were advising the prime minister were only thinking about themselves. “They will land him in trouble.” He also called the premier out for being absent during today’s session.
Once again turning his guns on Qureshi, Bilawal questioned why the foreign minister was not present for the National Security Committee meeting. He also questioned why the statement issued after the meeting did not mention the no-trust motion. “It just included a decision to issue a demarche.”
Bilawal said that if there was a conspiracy against the government, PM Imran should have taken action immediately. He maintained that the current battle was not between the PTI, the PPP or the PDM, rather between those who upheld the Constitution and those who disregarded it.
The PPP chairman added that PM Imran was “scared of fair and free elections”. The prime minister knows that he will be defeated in the same way he was defeated in the by-elections, Bilawal thundered, adding that the prime minister could not be Zulfikar Ali Bhutto no matter how hard he tried.
He said that the opposition wanted to oust the government in a “democratic way”. “This is the only legal and democratic means to dismiss the government,” he said, adding that the NA belonged to the people of Pakistan.
Talking about the government’s claims of horse-trading, he asked how much money the foreign minister took each time he switched alliances. “Ninety per cent of the faces on the treasury benches are turncoats.”
He added that PM Imran had divided the house, the judiciary, the establishment and the entire country. “The prime minister should show sportsmanship. He is the first captain who is running away from the pitch after taking away the wicket.”