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Many Pakistani MPs defect from PM’s party before no-trust vote

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KARACHI: The threat of political turmoil in Pakistan is growing as the opposition looks to remove Prime Minister Imran Khan in a vote that could come as soon as this month after a no-confidence motion was moved in parliament last week. While government decided to approach Supreme Court to seek clarity on Article 63(A)

As the latest development, several legislators from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ruling Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) have withdrawn their support for him ahead of a no-confidence vote, stoking more uncertainty over whether the cricketer turned politician can hang on to power.

The development came a day after a key ally said Imran Khan was in danger of losing his coalition partners, flagging a “tilt” by his partners in government towards their opponents.

The opposition blames Imran Khan for mismanaging the country, economy, and foreign policy. No Pakistani prime minister has ever completed his term in office.

“We have differences with the PM,” one of his legislators, Raja Riaz, told local media.

“We will vote according to our conscience,” he said, claiming there were 24 defectors in Sindh House but total number of defectors are almost double.

Three more legislators endorsed Riaz and private TV channels showed recorded footage of several ruling party members at Sindh House, which is under control of opposition Pakistan People’s Party’s Sindh Govt in Islamabad.

“We are clear that we will not get into any blackmailing to save our government,” Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told a news conference. “We reject this culture of turncoats.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser to move the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for legal action and de-notification of the PTI’s dissidents, local media reported.

The directives came during a meeting of party spokespersons Thursday, with the prime minister in the chair, according to the publication, as the political temperature in the country rises after several ruling party members publicly announced to vote as per their conscience on the no-trust motion against the premier.

PM Imran Khan also asked the NA speaker to initiate legal action against the dissident MNAs of the party after it emerged that around 24 members were staying at the Sindh House — a move that plunged the country into political chaos.

Without the coalition partners and the dissidents, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, which has 155 seats in the lower house, would fall short of the 172 needed to retain power.

The joint opposition consists of major parties such as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the PPP of former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, respectively, and has 162 seats in the lower house with the support of Maulana Fazur Rehman’s Jamiat Ulma e Islam.

Senior journalist, Hamid Mir, who interviews PTI’s defector legislatures on Thursday, said there will be more PTI members of national assembly will become defector and it depends how many more would be adjusted by opposition PML N.

He also disclosed that PTI MNAs from Punjab are in contact with PML Q, one of the allies of Imran Khan’s coalition govt, leadership and some of them would join the party too.

While in Sindh, PTI MNAs from Karachi looking towards Pakistan Peoples Party, Mir added.

Meanwhile, Federal government has decided to approach the Supreme Court for interpretation of Article 63-A as several PTI lawmakers have announced to vote on the no-trust motion, in a violation of the party policy, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Friday.

The decision was taken during a consultative meeting of the PTI’s political committee held today with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair.

The meeting was convened to discuss the legal options available to act against the disgruntled lawmakers and counter the Opposition’s move to dislodge the government of Imran Khan.

In a series of tweets, Fawad Chaudhry said the government would file a petition under Article 186 of the Constitution to seek the interpretation of Article 63-A.

“… we will seek the Supreme Court’s interpretation as to what will be the standing of a party member’s vote who is found in violation of the party’s policy and is involved in horsetrading,” the federal minister said.

The information minister said the government would seek the apex court’s guidance on whether a person, who shifts loyalty for monetary benefit, should be ineligible for a lifetime for becoming a lawmaker or whether they could contest polls again and be elected to parliament.

“The Supreme Court will be requested to hear the case on a daily basis,” he said.

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