The “vote of confidence” or “no-confidence” is a gesture of the members of parliament to show their trust, or otherwise, in the leader of the house in a parliamentary system. If opposition tables a “no-confidence” motion in the assembly against a prime minister, he has to show that a majority of the members have “confidence” in his leaderships. However, a prime minister can seek a “vote of confidence” voluntarily when a situation arises that seems to be against him. In the parliamentary history of Pakistan, Imran Khan will be the second prime minister who will voluntarily seek parliamentarians’ confidence today.
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is the other leader of the house who had sought a voluntary vote of confidence from the National Assembly when the Supreme Court reinstated him in 1993. Nawaz Sharif was dismissed by then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in April 1993 on corruption charges.
Interestingly, the PPP boycotted the assembly session just as the present opposition alliance has announced to stay away from session.
Muhammad Khan Junejo was the first prime minister who got a vote of confidence after General Zia-ul-Haq restored the parliamentary system in 1985. Junejo got the vote on March 24 under Revival of Constitution Order (RCO) and the Eighth Amendment to the 1973 Constitution.
According to the reforms introduced by Gen Zia, the president nominates the prime minister whoever he deems fit to lead the house and he (prime minister) has to get a vote of confidence from the National Assembly within 60 days of his nomination.
All the prime ministers, from 1985 to 2008, got a vote of confidence from the National Assembly under the amendment. They were: the late Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, Mir Zafarullah Jamali, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Shaukat Aziz and Yousaf Raza Gilani.
However, the People’s Party (PPP) government repealed the provision in the 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 2009.
NO-CONFIDENCE: Apart from the “voluntary” vote of confidence, the opposition tabled the “no-confidence” motion twice. Benazir Bhutto defeated a no-confidence motion on November 1, 1989, by 12 votes. Shaukat Aziz was the other prime minister who defeated a no-confidence motion against him in August 2006.
The 1973 Constitution provides: “If the president feels that the prime minister has lost the confidence of the majority in the National Assembly, he convenes a special meeting and asks the prime minister to take a vote of confidence.”