The Pakistan National Assembly will meet on Thursday for a debate on the no-confidence motion tabled by the joint opposition against Prime Minister Imran Khan to topple his government, which has effectively lost majority after two key allies walked away from the ruling coalition.
The session will be held at at 4pm (local time), according to the schedule issued by the assembly secretariat. It also issued a 24-point agenda for the session – the no-confidence motion is fourth on the agenda.
Khan faces the prospect of becoming the first Pakistani PM to lose a no-trust vote. His party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), needs the support of at least 172 members in the National Assembly.
The PTI has 155 members, while the opposition alliance has claimed the support of more than 175. Media reports suggest that 10-15 members belonging to the PTI may abstain during voting.
The motion will be put to vote by April 4.
Here are the key players in the crisis:
Shahbaz is the brother of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was evicted from power in 2018 following his conviction in a corruption case. Shahbaz has served as the Punjab CM three times. He is currently the leader of opposition and has stitched an alliance with rival PPP, which had a bitter equation with the PML-N under Nawaz.
Bilawal is the son of former prime minister the late Benazir Bhutto and former president Asif Ali Zardari. Bilawal has announced that Shahbaz will be the opposition’s prime ministerial candidate after Khan is ousted. The PPP under him slipped to the third position in the National Assembly in the 2018 election as Khan’s PTI emerged as the largest party.
PML-N leader Maryam is the daughter of Nawaz Sharif and has emerged as his political heir. She has been campaigning for the government’s removal for several months. Some commentators have described Maryam as the new political heartthrob of Pakistan. Her campaign is said to have contributed to the loss of popularity of Khan.
Rehman is a Deobandi cleric and veteran politician who was the petroleum minister in the Bhutto government in the 1990s. He has emerged as one of the reasons for the strained relationship between Khan and army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Khan claimed that Bajwa asked him not to address Rehman the prime minister’s nemesis since 2019 when he laid a siege of Islamabad as ‘Diesel’.
‘Diesel’ became Rehman’s nickname over allegations that he made a fortune allowing illegal sale of diesel in Pakistan and Afghanistan as the petroleum minister.
Khan has continued to call him ‘Diesel’ in his public speeches. Rehman, a strong votary of imposing Sharia and a supporter of the Taliban, has campaigned against him in the past three years after losing all three seats he contested in 2018 parliamentary polls.
The TTP, not directly affiliated with the Taliban in Afghanistan, is a Pashtunist terror group aiming to bring Pakistan under Taliban rule.
The TTP, also called the Pakistan Taliban, has said it will resume attacks on army camps during Ramzan, which begins on Sunday or Monday. A suicide attack was carried out on Wednesday.
Khan had reached a ceasefire agreement with the TTP in November last year. It lasted only a month.
Until late 2021, the Imran Khan government appeared to be a success as what is often referred to as the hybrid model of government understood as the pilot project of the army. However, the relationship between the army and Khan turned hostile.
It is said the army faced a crisis of credibility in the public imagination for failing to get the government to tackle economic woes. Khan and Gen Bajwa have been fighting in public.
It began with the question of the appointment of the spy agency Inter-services Intelligence’s (ISI) chief in October-November last year.
Khan favoured extension to incumbent Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, who had earned the ire of Gen Bajwa with his public appearance in Kabul during the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August. Gen Bajwa wanted a change, and Khan lost the battle.
Then came an allegation from Khan’s camp that the army was involved in a deal with Shahbaz to protect four persons – himself, his son Hamza, Nawaz Sharif (to end his political exile) and Maryam at the cost of the government.
The army rejected the charge in early January, saying: “Whoever speaks about the deal should be asked for clarification. Who is negotiating with Nawaz Sharif? What are the motives behind the deal with Nawaz Sharif? What is the evidence?”