Everything you need to know about the Vote of No Confidence

Opposition parties on Tuesday moved a no-confidence motion seeking the ouster of Prime Minister Imran Khan, accusing him of mismanaging the economy and poor governance in the toughest challenge he has faced since taking power in 2018.

With the submission of the no-confidence resolution by the opposition parties, Prime Minister Imran Khan has instantly lost the power to dissolve the National Assembly at his will.

For a no-confidence motion to be successful, the support of a simple majority — 172 of the total 342 members — in the lower house of parliament is required.

“We will have more than 172 votes,” said Bilawal Bhutto’s father, Asif Ali Zardari, a former president.

On the other hand, lawmakers and political analysts say PM Khan has lost the backing of the powerful military whose support they say secured the path to power for his upstart political party four years ago.

Khan denies the military helped him into office. The military says it does not interfere in politics.

Does the Opposition have the required numbers? Let’s take a look.

Government’s numbers in NA:
PTI — 155
MQM-P — 7
PML-Q — 5
BAP — 5
GDA — 3
Independent — 2
AML — 1
JWP — 1
Total: 179

Opposition’s numbers in NA:
PML-N — 84
PPP — 56
MMA — 15
BNP-M — 4
Independent — 2
ANP — 1
Total: 162

Currently, the government has a 17-member lead over the Opposition. If we take a look at the numbers of MQM-P (7), PML-Q (5), and BAP (5), it adds up to 17 — and the Opposition is repeatedly approaching these parties to get their support.

In this scenario, the Opposition will have 179 votes, while the government’s numbers will fall to 162.

Apart from this, the Opposition parties claim they have the support of 24 lawmakers from treasury benches — PML-N claims to have the support of 16 PTI lawmakers, PPP six, and JUI-F two — who have assured to back their no-confidence motion.

But there’s a catch: If the PTI lawmakers cast a vote in favour of the Opposition’s no-confidence motion, legal action of defecting from the party can be taken against them.

However, if the allies of the PTI cast their vote in favour of the no-confidence motion, no legal proceedings can be initiated against them.

If the National Assembly is not in session, the first step will be to requisition it under Article 54 of the Constitution.

After this requisition – which must be signed by at least one-fourth of the total members of the house – is submitted, the speaker has a maximum of 14 days to summon the session.

For a vote of no-confidence against the prime minister, at least 20 per cent of the total MNAs, which means 68 members, have to sign a resolution for it to be voted on.

After the National Assembly is in session, the rules of procedure dictate that the secretary will circulate a notice for a no-confidence resolution, which will be moved on the next working day.

From the day the resolution is moved, it “shall not be voted upon before the expiry of three days, or later than seven days,” according to the rules of procedure.

Therefore, the speaker must call the lower house in session by March 22, while voting on the no-confidence motion must take place between March 26 and March 30.

A vote of no-confidence against the prime minister is conducted by an open vote by division.

When the session takes place, a bell is rung to inform any parliamentarians that may be outside the assembly hall and then the gates are closed.

Those who are for the motion exit from one gate and those against the motion exit from another gate. As they exit, the count begins. Once the hall is emptied, the counting is completed and everyone re-enters the hall.

After this, the speaker announces the result. If the vote of no-confidence is successful, the speaker submits the result to the president in writing and the secretary issues a notification to be gazetted.

A vote of no-confidence against a speaker or deputy speaker of the assembly is conducted through a secret ballot.

The rules of the assembly state that a speaker or deputy speaker cannot preside over an assembly session when their removal is being considered. Under the rules, the session cannot take any business other than the no-trust move.

If the speaker or deputy speaker is removed, a notification is published in the gazette.

According to the Constitution, if a no-trust resolution against the premier is passed by a majority of the total membership of the lower house, the prime minister ceases to hold office.

After the premier is removed, the National Assembly must immediately vote to elect a new leader.

NA Rule 32 states: “After the election of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker following a general election or whenever the office of the Prime Minister falls vacant for any reason, the Assembly shall, to the exclusion of any other business, proceed to elect without debate one of its Muslim members to be the Prime Minister.”

When the prime minister is removed through a vote of no-confidence, his cabinet is also dissolved.

“A cabinet is an extension of the prime minister’s powers. A cabinet can be selected from ministers, advisers […] but a cabinet cannot exist without the leader of the House. A cabinet assists the leader of the House in close quarters,” explained lawyer Abdul Moiz Jaferii.

The National Assembly cannot function without a leader.

“The first thing you do when you have an election […] is you elect a speaker so that the House can have a custodian and as soon as you elect a speaker, you elect a leader of the House so it can have a direction.

“As soon as you don’t have a leader of the House, you must elect one again.”

Jaferii added that if there is no leader of the House, the president can dissolve the assembly and call an election.

In case of the removal of the NA speaker, the deputy speaker temporarily acts as the speaker, till the former can be appointed.

Raja Furqan Ahmed

Raja Furqan Ahmed is the News Editor of The Pakistan Daily.

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