A day of high drama that continued post midnight brought to an end to Imran Khan's tenure as prime minister with 174 votes cast against him in the no confidence motion that took place in the Supreme Court-ordered session of the National Assembly.
The NA session - marred by multiple delays, speeches and filibusters as well as breaks ostensibly to delay the vote - finally saw voting around midnight after reconvening nearly two hours later than expected after the penultimate break.
When it reconvened a quarter before midnight, Speaker Asad Qaiser announced that he was resinging due to "the long association with PM Imran", while handing over the House to PML-N's Ayaz Sadiq to continue NA proceedings.
Following the handover, Ayaz Sadiq thanked the speaker for his services and then took up the motion. As it was 11:57, Sadiq informed the house that it would have to adjourn before midnight and reconvene again as required by parliamentary procedure on change of date.
Sadiq then acted upon the lawmakers' call for initiating the vote before adjourning - for a symoblic few minutes - and reconvening at 11:02.
As per the house business, the lawmakers in the favour of the motion were asked to say “I” and move to the lobby to the left side of the speaker and those who wanted to vote were asked to move the other lobby.
PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq announced the result, according to which 174 lawmakers voted in favour of the motion, after which Imran Khan ceased to hold the office of prime minister, according to Article 95 of the Constitution. The opposition and their supporters sitting in the assembly gallery cheered after the announcement. They were seen meeting PDM head Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Moreover, opposition lawmakers were also chanting slogans in favour of former president Asif Ali Zardari.
Imran Khan is the first prime minister in Pakistan’s history to have been removed from office through a no-confidence vote. Before him, Shaukat Aziz in 2006, and Benazir Bhutto in 1989, survived the moves against them.
PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb said Sadiq could not cast his vote as he was chairing the session. PTI dissenting members did not cast their votes either.
Later, it announced that the assembly would meet at 2:00pm instead. Upon reconvening the session, Sadiq said that the august house was "missing" former premier Nawaz Sharif and gave the floor to erstwhile opposition leaders to speak.
Before that, Asad Qaiser had adjourned the session for night prayers (isha) as Energy Minister Hammad Azhar's speech was marred by opposition lawmakers chants of "voting", with the House now to reconvene at 9:30pm.
The session began at 10:30 am as ordered by the top court with Speaker Asad Qaiser in the chair. The session was adjourned at around 11pm for a break during which NA Speaker Asad Qaiser had a meeting with united opposition leaders to run today's sitting of the House.
The session had originally been adjourned till 12:30pm, but resumed after a delay of nearly two hours. Since then there have been three other breaks, one for afternoon prayers (asr), then for iftar (sunset meal to break fast) after which it resumed at 7:30pm. The last break of the day so far was for night prayer (isha).
It was initially reported that the vote would take place at 8pm. However, PM Imran has called a cabinet session at 9pm, which has given rise to reports that the vote might take place at 11pm or not at all.
During all this, it has also been reported that NA speaker Asad Qaiser has refused to allow voting on motion to take place, citing his long association with the prime minister while reportedly stating that he was willing to face the consequences of his decision.
The National Assembly's session was summoned after the Supreme Court's landmark verdict on the dismissal of the no-confidence motion against the prime minister. However, the speaker adjourned the sitting within half an hour of proceedings for one and a half hour.
Earlier, the NA speaker adjourned the session till 12:30 after the house witnessed a clamour when the opposition leader protested against the "long speech" of the foreign minister. FM Qureshi was talking about the opposition's absence in the parliamentary committee meeting on security.
The session started with the Quran recitation, followed by Naat and the national anthem. So far Prime Minister Imran Khan has not arrived at the National Assembly and the opposition members are almost in high attendance. Moreover, the members in the treasury benches are not in full attendance.
Taking the floor, Leader of Opposition in NA Shehbaz Sharif urged Speaker Asad Qaiser to "cash the moment" by working as what the latter's "mind and heart said".
"Parliament is going to make history today and remove a selected prime minister. I want to say to you to please work as constitution and law and stand for it and play the role of speaker. It is a moment you must cash this moment with your heart and mind," Shehbaz said.
He urged the house speaker to follow the SC order. To this, the speaker said he had read the SC order and continued to follow it.
"I will work as per the SC ruling, one more important thing is that we also want to have a debate on the international conspiracy," Qaiser said.
To this, Shehbaz reminded the speaker of past practices and the PTI's apparent attempt to harm Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Pakistan in 2014. "You cannot deviate from this and please go for voting."
Qaiser said: "The SC decision will be followed in the true spirit."
Taking the floor, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said they would work as per the apex court's ruling and the premier has accepted the decision. "There is a provision for the no-confidence motion in the Constitution."
He questioned the united opposition's decision to move SC against the NA deputy speaker's ruling on April 3. The foreign minister spoke about the apparent foreign conspiracy letter and quoted the National Security Committee's decision to issue a demarche in Islamabad and Washington.
"Pakistan's history is full of constitutional violations," he said, adding that the doctrine of necessity should have been buried.
"I am happy that Pakistan's democracy has evolved and that we all are not ready to take its (doctrine of necessity) support," he added.
In its order on suo motu notice on the political crisis, the apex court on Thursday restored the National Assembly and declared the ruling of the National Assembly deputy speaker issued on April 3 null and void. It also declared the dissolution of the House illegal and against the Constitution.
The united opposition, which has garnered the support of ruling allies’ lawmakers – including BAP, MQM-P, and JWP – and the PTI dissidents, has claimed to have enough numbers to oust the premier. According to the rules, they need 172 numbers of votes to de-seat the premier.
However, the ruling party has alleged that the no-trust move was part of a foreign conspiracy against the government. PM Imran in his speeches apparently has accused the United States of imposing an imported government in the country. But, the US has time and again rejected such allegations.
According to Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, the federal cabinet on Friday decided to present the ‘threatening’ cable and “piece of evidence pertaining to the no-trust move” in the assembly and would ask the speaker for a debate on the issue.
No-trust move against Suri
The joint opposition on Friday submitted a no-confidence motion against National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri for “violating” the Constitution and “depriving” the opposition of its democratic right through his controversial ruling on April 3, 2022, Business Recorder reported.
PML-N leader Murtaza Javed Abbasi had submitted the no-confidence motion against the incumbent deputy speaker on behalf of the united opposition.
In the motion, the opposition has alleged that Suri had made the worst example through his ruling on April 3, and the Supreme Court has already declared it as against the Constitution.
It further read that through the ruling, the deputy speaker deprived the joint opposition of its constitutional right to vote on the no-confidence motion against PM Imran and “hence lost the confidence of the House”.
Earlier, the opposition submitted a no-confidence resolution against NA Speaker Asad Qaiser minutes before the start of the NA sitting on April 3, when the house had been called to vote on the no-trust resolution against the PM.
The orders of the day for today’s sitting remain the same as those issued for the April 3 session. The sitting is expected to commence around 10:30am.
PM Imran accepts SC’s decision
In an address to the nation, PM Imran on Friday accepted the Supreme Court decision but also expressed its disappointment that the august house did not summon the “threatening letter”.
“It [SC verdict] was disappointing because the top court did not look at the reasons for the dismissal of the no-confidence vote. The apex court should have at least seen the letter, or conducted an in-camera briefing over the threat letter, before giving a verdict,” PM Imran said, “Another thing that was shocking for us was that the horse-trading angle was completely neglected.”
The premier reiterated to fight against the opposition leaders and asked the masses to hold a peaceful protest against the “imported government” on Sunday. “I am coming to the streets again.”
Moreover, the opposition ahead of the April 3 assembly session had said that they would not use the votes of the PTI dissidents in order to avoid them from getting tried under Article 63-A of the Constitution.
PPP Chairman on Friday warned the president and deputy speaker of violating the Constitution again.
In a tweet, he said that it would be the second time the constitution would be violated if the government tried yet again to sabotage the democratic constitutional process of vote of no confidence.
“So PM, president, speaker & deputy speaker will not only be liable to under Article 6 [of the Constitution] twice but also contempt,” it read.