Conflict Alerts # 494, 6 April 2022
In the news
On 3 April, President Arif Alvi dissolved the National Assembly on Imran Khan's advice under Article 58 of the Constitution. Following this decision, the Cabinet Division issued a notification, de-notifying Imran Khan as the prime minister and the 52-member federal cabinet. In his address to the nation, Imran Khan said, "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."
On the same day, National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri dismissed the no-confidence motion submitted by the joint opposition to removing the prime minister, terming it as "unconstitutional" under Article 5 of the constitution. Previously, the opposition in the National Assembly went ahead with the proceedings of the house despite its dissolution and completed the voting process on the no-trust motion against Imran Khan. The opposition declared the vote successful with 197 votes and the proceedings as "legal and valid."
Following the series of events, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial ruled that all orders and actions initiated by the President and prime minister regarding the dissolution of the National Assembly would be subject to the court's order.
Issues at large
First, the collapse of the PTI collation. Over the recent months, it became evident that the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) collation was falling apart. The party’s allies were seen switching sides and losing confidence in the PTI. Initially, the with PTI with 155 Members of National Assembly (MNAs) had the required 172 number if the no-confidence vote was to take place because of its collation allies which comprised of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) (7), Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) (5), Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) (5), Sindh-based Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) (3), Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) (1), two Independents, and Awami Muslim League (1). However, with the numbers changed after at least two of the PTI’s allies, MQM-P and the BAP along with few independent candidates drew back their support and joined the opposition. This fragile coalition coupled with the rise in the number of dissidents within the ruling party’s ranks led to its collapse.
Second, the opposition’s aggressive move against Imran. The opposition had jointly taken efforts to remove the PTI government since 2020 with the launch of the Pakistan Democratic Movement. However, their efforts have aggressively intensified with the filing of the no-confidence motion in March 2022. Both the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) and other opposition parties have engaged actively in rallies, inter-party meetings and strategic planning to remove Imran Khan. When it comes to the number, three main opposition parties, Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) (84), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) (56), and Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) (15) have the support the support of Balochistan National Party (BNP), Awami National Party and other PTI allies that have switched sides taking leaving them with sufficient numbers to pass the no-confidence motion. The results of which was seen when the opposition carried out the voting despite the house being dissolved.
Third, parliamentary proceedings and the judiciary. Deputy speaker Suri’s decision has been heavily criticised as unconstitutional pushing the country towards another constitutional crisis. Additionally, the decisions made following the filing of the no-confidence motion are not in compliance with several constitutional norms. Thus, once again parliamentary proceedings end up in the judiciary as the Supreme Court took a suo motu notice of these developments, stating that these matters will be examined by the court before any decision are made.
Fourth, the Establishment's role. The Establishment has publicly made it clear that it is has nothing to do with the developments in the National Assembly. The Establishment has largely left the PTI government to fight its own political battles by taking a step back.
First, another incomplete term. Pakistan has once again kept up its tradition of incomplete political tenures. The current political crisis in Pakistan reveals the difficulties both governments and its prime ministers face in completing their terms.
Second, Imran's exit and the opposition's entry. Imran Khan's decision to dissolve the National Assembly shows that he has accepted his defeat but chose to leave on his terms. Meanwhile, the re-energized opposition's game plan post their no-confidence move remains unclear. However, the opposition's unity would likely take a hit.
Third, the role of judiciary. The proceeding of Parliament has once again ended up in the supreme court, an unprecedented move. However, even if the court manages to resolve the legal or constitutional crisis, the political crisis is unlikely to be resolved soon.