Early polls can be held to end political uncertainty: Pakistan Interior Minister

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said on Thursday that early elections can be held in the country to end the current political uncertainty due to a no-trust motion against embattled Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is struggling to save his government.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Rashid also warned party dissidents that switching sides would not do them any good.

Pakistan has been on the edge since Opposition parties on March 8 submitted a no-confidence motion before the National Assembly Secretariat, alleging that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government led by Prime Minister Khan was responsible for the economic crisis and the spiralling inflation in the country.

Khan, 69, is heading a coalition government and he can be removed if some of the partners decide to switch sides.

Khan ran into trouble after his allied parties with 23 members refused to give a clear indication to support him in the parliament during the no-trust vote motion which would come up for discussion in Parliament later this month.

His woes multiplied when about two dozen dissidents emerged within his party.

But both Khan and his ministers are trying to give the impression that everything was fine and he would come out victorious out of the trial.

Rashid asked members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) that before going against the Prime Minister, the "turncoats must also keep in mind that early elections can also be called in the country" and switching sides would not do them any good.

"Those who are changing parties and thinking they will get respect, they are wrong," the minister said.

Rashid promised "good news" despite the ground reality of creeping defeat staring Khan in the face.

The National Assembly has been summoned to meet on Friday but it is not clear if the speaker would allow the no-trust motion or adjourn the session without any official business.

On Wednesday, Rashid had said that voting on the no-trust move can be held between March 30 and April 1.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is hearing a petition by the Khan government regarding the period of disqualification of its members voting against the Prime Minister by ignoring the party policy.

A five-member larger bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Aijazul Ahsan, Justice Mazhar Alam, and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel is hearing the case and it is possible that the no-trust vote is delayed until the court decides the petition.

Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan had submitted the move, also called a presidential reference, about the interpretation of Article 63-A of the Constitution in the wake of nearly two dozen lawmakers of the ruling party threatening to vote in favour of the opposition's no-trust motion.

The article says that anyone voting against the directive of the party leader on key issues like no-trust move or money bill will be disqualified.

The law is silent on the duration of disqualification, but Prime Minister Khan has threatened lifetime disqualification for the dissidents.

The PTI has 155 members in the 342-member National Assembly and needs at least 172 lawmakers on its side to remain in the government.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Khan invited the nation to participate in the ruling party's March 27 power show at Islamabad's Parade Ground, calling on the people to join him in "standing against evil".

"I want the entire nation to join me on March 27 to send one message: that we are not with evil, we are against it.

That we are against the crime[s] being committed against democracy and the nation, where the conscience of public representatives is being bought with looted money," Khan said in a recorded message.

On Wednesday, Khan had said that he will not resign at any cost and claimed to have a "surprise" up his sleeve for the opposition, even as at least three allies of the ruling coalition have indicated to vote against his government during the no-trust motion.

"I will not resign under any circumstance. I will play till the last ball (...) and I will surprise them (opposition) a day before as they are still under pressure," Prime Minister Khan said, without revealing further details.

Talking to reporters here, he said the Opposition has laid all of their cards, but the no-confidence motion against him would not be successful.

"My trump card is that I have not laid any of my cards yet," he said confidently.

"No one should be under the false impression that I will sit at home.

I will not resign, and why should I? Should I resign due to the pressure from thieves?" he said while referring to the opposition leaders' no-trust vote against him.

Both government and opposition politicians have been working overtime to tilt the balance in their favour.

 
 

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