President Dr Arif Alvi on Sunday dissolved the National Assembly on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s advice under Article 58 of the Constitution.
“The president of Pakistan, Dr Arif Alvi, has approved the advice of the prime minister of Pakistan to dissolve the National Assembly under the Article 58 (1) read with Article 48(1) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” according to a statement issued by the President’s Secretariat.
According to Article 58, “The president shall dissolve the National Assembly if so advised by the prime minister; and the National Assembly shall, unless sooner dissolved, stand dissolved at the expiration of forty-eight hours after the prime minister has so advised.”
The premier’s announcement came moments after National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, who was chairing today’s session, dismissed the no-confidence resolution against Prime Minister Imran Khan before voting could take place, terming it a contradiction of Article 5 of the Constitution, which says loyalty to the state is the basic duty of every citizen.
The government claims that the no-trust motion against the premier was a “foreign funded conspiracy”, citing a ‘threat letter’ that was received from a foreign country through Pakistan’s ambassador, asking for the removal of PM Imran.
The military, meanwhile, distanced itself with the political developments in the country. “Army has nothing to do with the political process,” Major General Babar Iftikhar, the head of the military’s public relations wing, told Reuters in response to a question about the institution’s involvement in Sunday’s developments.
In his address today, Prime Minister Imran congratulated the nation for the no-trust motion being dismissed, saying the deputy speaker had “rejected the attempt of changing the regime [and] the foreign conspiracy”.
The premier said he had been receiving messages from many people who were worried, adding that “treason” was being committed in front of the nation. “I want to say, ‘ghabrana nahi hai‘ (do not worry). God is watching over Pakistan.”
He said he had written to the president with advice to dissolve the assemblies, adding that the democrats should go to the public and elections should be held so the people could decide who they wanted in power.
Prime Minister Imran said the “billions of rupees” that had been spent to “buy” lawmakers’ votes would be wasted and advised those who had taken money to donate it to orphanages and the poor.
“Prepare for elections. No corrupt forces will decide what the future of the country will be. When the assemblies will be dissolved, the procedure for the next elections and the caretaker government will begin,” he added.
Shortly afterwards, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the prime minister’s advice to dissolve the National Assembly had been sent to President Dr Arif Alvi under Article 58 of the Constitution.
In a separate tweet, he said the cabinet had been dissolved while PM Imran would continue in office under Article 224 of the Constitution, which is related to elections and by-elections.
According to the article, after the dissolution of the NA, the president, in consultation with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, would appoint a caretaker prime minister.
It further states: “When the National Assembly or a provincial assembly is dissolved, a general election to the assembly shall be held within a period of ninety days after the dissolution, and the results of the election shall be declared not later than fourteen days after the conclusion of the polls.”
PM offers explanation of NA proceedings
Later in the day, PM Imran, while talking to his party officials, said he wanted to explain what had happened in the NA since “the opposition still can’t understand [what has happened].”
He said a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) had “clearly said” that the no-confidence motion was subject to a foreign interference.
The premier said that in the NSC meeting attended by all the security chiefs, the minutes of the meeting and conversation between Pakistan’s former US ambassador Asad Majeed and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu were released in which it was “confirmed that it (no-trust motion) was a plan made from abroad in which Pakistan’s internal politics were meddled with”.
The prime minister alleged that US embassy officials had also met PTI dissidents, questioning the need for them to do so. He claimed that the meetings were a part of the no-confidence vote against him.
“When the country’s highest security body confirms it (the conspiracy) then these the NA proceedings and the number of [MNAs] there was irrelevant.”
Rashid wishes dissolution of Punjab, KP assemblies as well
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid said it was his wish that provincial assemblies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were dissolved as well but the prime minister had not decided on the issue yet.
Rashid added he had suggested to the premier to impose emergency rule but it was disregarded since the apex court would have rejected such a move. He said it was his wish that general elections be held after Haj.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib said new elections would be held in 90 days.
Earlier today, Information Minister Chaudhry, who took the floor shortly after the NA session began, said that loyalty to the state was the basic duty of every citizen under Article 5(1). He reiterated the premier’s earlier claims that a foreign conspiracy was behind the move to oust the government.
“On March 7, our official ambassador was invited to a meeting attended by the representatives of other countries. The meeting was told that a motion against PM Imran was being presented,” he said, noting that this occurred a day before the opposition formally filed the no-trust move.
“We were told that relations with Pakistan were dependent on the success of the no-confidence motion. We were told that if the motion fails, then Pakistan’s path would be very difficult. This is an operation for a regime change by a foreign government,” he alleged.
The minister questioned how this could be allowed and called on the deputy speaker to decide the constitutionality of the no-trust move.
Suri, who chaired the session after opposition parties, in a surprise move, filed a no-confidence motion against Speaker Asad Qaiser, noted that the motion was presented on March 8 and should be according to the law and the Constitution. “No foreign power shall be allowed to topple an elected government through a conspiracy,” he said, adding that the points raised by the minister were “valid”.
He dismissed the motion, ruling that it was “contradictory” to the law, the Constitution and the rules. The session was later prorogued.
Back to Square One
The consequences of the agitation started by the opposition from day one could not have been different from what the legal and constitutional crisis we are having today. We have made every institution controversial. The fairness and transparency of no subsequent election after the fateful elections of 1970 have been recognised. The Armed Forces of the country, the superior judiciary, the Accountability Bureau, the law enforcing agencies, the election commission all have been mauled at the altar of our petty political controversies.
This is not the time to lament our disappointing tryst with democracy in the past. It would be in order to review the current political crisis in correct perspective. The elections of 2018 were held under interim governments in the centre and provinces, chosen by both the ruling party and opposition by the election commission headed by a consensus chairman. The law and order was maintained by the army and rangers. The election results were, as usual, challenged by the loosing political parties. They even announced to not take oath.
However, this controversy resulted in the formation of PDM for political agitation. This agitation intensified with the increasing pace of the accountability of the known political leaders finding its way in the parliament with the ruling party and the combined opposition trading barbs and using highly provocative, vituperative and derogatory sobriquets against each other. The National Assembly practically remained dysfunctional. Even issues of national importance got obscured in this political hostility and bitterness though the deadly Covid-19, the tottering economy, Modi Sarkar’s cruel raid on the autonomous state of Jammu and Kashmir, the fast-changing situation in Afghanistan, and the Gulf Region all demanded a concerted national move.
The armed forces, the superior judiciary, the accountability bureau, the law enforcing agencies and the election commission have all been mauled at the altar of our petty political controversies.
This was not the first time the politicians have landed this country into such a legal and constitutional absurdity. The second half of 1970s was marred by a more absurd political controversy culminating in the overthrow of an elected government by a dictator, the ominous slogan of accountability first and elections later, the arrest, mock trial and execution of the most popular leader of the country, the eleven years of absolute dictatorship and a renewed cycle of agitation for restoration of democracy. The years of 1990s witnessed the repeat of the earlier political controversies paving the way for another extra constitutional takeover. Can our worthy politicians tell us how long this vicious circle of political intolerance, immaturity and hostility will last?
The Prime Minister Imran grossly erred in handling the heightening political move against him. Though the political controversy has sent his public popularity soaring to the sky as revealed by his recent mammoth public meetings, he could not muster the courage to face the No Confidence Motion with grace. In my twitters one day before the fateful session of the National Assembly, I had advised him to try to win the No Confidence Motion and then get the Assemblies dissolved for a new mandate. And that if he fails to win the NCM, he should make a graceful exit speech and go to the people. As a political martyr free from incumbency, and his surging public popularity, he will have clear majority in any fair and transparent election.
He followed a bad advice getting the National Assembly dissolved under controversial circumstances. The opposition seems unwilling to go for quick elections. Firstly, they are daunted by the sudden and unexpected surge in the popularity of Imran Khan. Secondly, they have plans to repeal certain laws relating to electronic voting machine and right to oversee Pakistanis to vote in general elections. Thirdly, they want to prune the wings of the Accountability Bureau and get relief in cases against leading opposition leaders from courts and facilitate the home coming of the senior Sharif. Fourthly, they also want to use their new-found political power to dent the popularity of their lone opponent probably by implicating him in some concocted cases.
Politicians should Keep the National Interest Supreme
The outcome of the no-trust motion against the Prime Minister is not too far as it will be decided in the next few days. There will be one loser and one winner in this entire game. Irrespective of the result of the motion against the Prime Minister, one thing is clear this whole process has severely damaged the repute of our politicians. The people of Pakistan are fed up with the politicians and their lust for power. The way the politicians changed their loyalties in the name of their conscious is not good for the country and democracy. They were badly exposed in front of the public.
In western democracies, a no-confidence motion is a routine matter but our politicians have polluted this simple process while also damaging the trust of people for democracy. Everyone is thinking about his petty issue. It is talk of the town these days that everyone is deciding according to the voice of his conscious. Why they don’t pay any heed to the national interest of the country? They are telling a lie when they claim that they will decide keeping in view the national interest supreme.
They will only decide what will suit them to protect their money. Being a student of politics, I request all the politicians not to further taint our politics only for their personal gains as the outside world is already mocking us. This political instability is damaging our country and the time has come that sanity should prevail now to end this crisis. Pakistan will be on the path of progress when these politicians will take decisions according to the national interest of the country and not for their personal gains. Their conscious should be synchronized with the national interest of the country instead of the looted wealth.
The sensitivity demands that our politicians should think of Pakistan and say goodbye to this politics of money.
The sensitivity demands that our politicians should think of Pakistan and say goodbye to this politics of money. They should work tirelessly for the respect and glory of Pakistan as this will also be good for their personal repute. Everyone is busy these days to defame his rival. The loyalties of politicians are being bought through hefty amounts. Instead of getting involved in this whole saga of the no-confidence motion, everyone should announce no-confidence against the enemy of Pakistan. Instead of wasting energy and money no no-trust motion, everyone should repose the trust in the armed forces of Pakistan.
Everyone should play his role to further strengthen the Pakistan Army instead of wasting time in such futile exercises. Everyone should stand firmly behind the Pakistan Army to foil all the nefarious designs of our enemy. There should be a unanimous stance of our politicians for the development of Balochistan. The politicians should work this way that people of Pakistan start believing that their representatives really think about them. They should work diligently to get relief for the people of Pakistan from rampant inflation and unemployment.
Every Pakistani is seeing that a ‘black market’ is at its peak in the country these days. Someone is accusing his rival that he has sold his loyalty in return for money. Someone is asking for a guarantee of party tickets in the next election in return for selling his loyalty. The politicians are on sale in this open market and no one really cares about the people of Pakistan. The politicians are claiming that they are making decisions according to their conscious but the reality is altogether different. They are making decisions according to the money, party tickets and ministries being offered to them. Where is their conscious when they have to decide on the national interest of the country?
The time demands that everyone should unite for this country. The political instability always leads towards economic instability that Pakistan cannot afford in these circumstances. It is a humble request to these politicians to get united for the sake of this country as there is an international network of conspiracies against Pakistan. The international world is changing while many significant developments are also taking place in the region. India is also hatching conspiracies against Pakistan and therefore we all should get united to keep an eye on the worst enemy. Just recently, India fired a missile on the territory of Pakistan. It wasn’t a mistake as it was part of a well-orchestrated conspiracy.
India fired the missile at a time when our politicians were busy mudslinging. Modi wanted to check the response of Pakistan at this time. Thanks to Almighty that the defence of Pakistan is in safe hands regardless of the ongoing political situation of the country. Pakistan was saved due to the vigilance of our army. Our politicians should also show some courage to respond to India in a befitting manner. They all should launch a verbal attack on India instead of fighting with each other. A unanimous message must be sent to India by our politicians that we all are united whenever there will be any foreign aggression against our homeland. This attitude of our politicians will also strengthen the democracy and their respect will be increased in the people’s hearts.
Pakistan is our homeland that we got it after rendering thousands of sacrifices and therefore it is our moral duty to defend it at any cost. There is a dire need that our politicians should shun personal differences only for the sake of this country’s development and progress.
No-Confidence Motion: the Constitutional Consequences
Several Articles in the Constitution of Pakistan deal with the process of the no-confidence motion; prescribing the legal consequences against the Prime Minister of Pakistan. A vote of no-confidence against the prime minister would be conducted by an open vote by division as per Constitution. And if the Prime Minister loses the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly, the entire federal government has to resign. Till the election of a new Prime Minister, the ousted prime minister would continue as a transitory head.
The first step for the vote of no-trust motion would be that if the National Assembly is not in session as per article 54 of the Constitution to file a requisition for summoning the House and that requisition must be signed by at least one-fourth of members of the total House. The speaker of the National assembly would have a maximum of 14 days to summon the session. As per article 95 of the Constitution, a vote of no-confidence against the prime minister requires at least 20 per cent of the total MNAs, which means that 68 members have to sign a resolution for it to be voted on. After the Assembly in session, the Secretary of National Assembly would circulate a notice for a no-confidence resolution, which will be moved on the next working day. As per Article 95 (2) of the Constitution, the proceedings of vote of no confidence would not take place before the expiry of three days or not later than seven days.
If the resolution of the vote of no confidence would be passed by a majority of the total membership of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister shall cease to hold office, the Prime Minister as per Article 95 of the Constitution would cease to hold the office and his cabinet would also be dissolved simultaneously. As per Article 58 of the Constitution, the Prime Minister cannot go for the dissolution of national assembly against whom a notice of a resolution for a vote of no-confidence has been given in the National Assembly but has not been voted upon or against whom such a resolution has been passed or who is continuing in office after his resignation or after the dissolution of the National Assembly.
As per article 95 of the Constitution, a vote of no-confidence against the prime minister requires at least 20 per cent of the total MNAs.
As per Article 48 of the Constitution, the President would dissolve the national assembly in his discretion where, a vote of no-confidence having been passed against the Prime Minister, and no other member of the national assembly command the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, as ascertained in a session of the National Assembly summoned for the purpose. As per Article 94 of the Constitution, the President can ask the Prime Minister to continue to hold office until his successor enters upon the office of Prime Minister.
Through the 18th amendment in Constitution, Article 63A has been introduced whereby if a member of a Parliamentary Party composed of a single political party in a House votes or abstains from voting in the National Assembly contrary to any direction issued by the Parliamentary Party to which he belongs, in relation to the election of the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister or a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence he would be declared in writing by the Party Head to have defected from the political party, and the Party Head may forward a copy of the declaration to the Presiding Officer and the Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan and further before making the declaration, the Party Head shall provide such member with an opportunity to show cause as to why such declaration may not be made against him. The said Article of the Constitution has further described that the Presiding Officer of the House shall within two days refer, and in case he fails to do so it shall be deemed that he has referred, the declaration to the Chief Election Commissioner who shall lay the declaration before the Election Commission for its decision thereon confirming the declaration or otherwise within 30 days of its receipt by the Chief Election Commissioner.
As soon as the Election Commission of Pakistan would confirm the declaration, the member of the National Assembly who violated the directions of Party Head shall cease to be a member of the National Assembly and his seat shall become vacant. However, the aggrieved member of the National Assembly by the decision of the Election Commission would have the right within 30 days to file an appeal to the Supreme Court, which shall decide the matter within 90 days from the date of the filing of the appeal.
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