If history is any guide: Success of no-trust against PM, Speaker to be hard nut to crack

July 11, 2020

ISLAMABAD: If the opposition parties move no-confidence motions against Prime Minister Imran Khan and Speaker Asad Qaisar, it would be their responsibility to present a majority of the total...

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ISLAMABAD: If the opposition parties move no-confidence motions against Prime Minister Imran Khan and Speaker Asad Qaisar, it would be their responsibility to present a majority of the total membership of the National Assembly, 172 MPs, for success of their resolutions.

The opposition has announced that it will mull over moving no-trust resolutions against the premier and Speaker in its planned All Parties’ Conference (APC). Since the ruling alliance will not be obligated to produce its MPs during voting on these motions, it will keep its members away from the process. Any number of absent MPs will go to its advantage.

If Pakistan’s parliamentary history is any guide, no no-confidence motion against any prime minister has ever succeeded. However, such a move does unnerve the government, as it has to keep its MPs as a solid block to abstain from the voting. With an unprecedented difficulty, Benazir Bhutto had defeated the no-trust resolution, sponsored by Nawaz Sharif-led opposition, against her during her first tenure as the prime minister.

The Constitution and Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly spell out the mechanism of voting on the no-confidence motion against the prime minister.

Under Article 95, a no-confidence resolution moved by not less than twenty per centum of the total membership of the National Assembly may be passed against the Prime Minister by the National Assembly. It will not be voted upon before the expiration of three days, or later than seven days, from the day on which it is moved. It will not be moved in the National Assembly while it is considering the federal budget. If it is passed by a majority of the total membership, the Prime Minister will cease to hold office.

The second schedule of the rules says before voting commences, the Speaker will direct the bells to be rung for five minutes to enable members not present in the chamber to be present. Immediately after the bells stop ringing, all the entrances to the lobby will be locked and the secretariat staff posted at each entrance will not allow any entry or exit through those entrances until the voting has concluded.

The Speaker will then read out the resolution before the National Assembly and ask the members who wish to vote in its favour to pass in single file through the entrance where tellers will be posted to record the votes. On reaching the desk of the tellers, each member will, in turn, call out the division number allotted to him. The tellers will mark off his number on the division list simultaneously calling out the name of the member. In order to ensure that his vote has been properly recorded, the member will not move off until he has clearly heard the teller call out his name. After a member has recorded his vote, he will not return to the chamber until bells are rung.

When the Speaker finds that all the members who wished to vote have recorded their votes, he will announce that the voting has concluded. The secretary will cause the division list to be collected, count the recorded votes and present its result to the Speaker, who will direct the bells be rung for two minutes to enable the members to return to the chamber. The Speaker will then announce the result to the National Assembly.

The success of a no-confidence motion against the Speaker will be as difficult as a no-trust resolution against the prime minister will be.

Under the rules, while the Speaker can be ousted only by the majority votes, 172, he, in certain cases, doesn’t require such a big tally for his election.

Citing rules, legal experts say the Speaker can be ousted only through majority of the total membership of the National Assembly but such a numerical strength is not required to elect a candidate to this slot. These positions are elaborated in Rule 10.

Rule 10 provides an interesting scenario - in certain cases, majority of the total membership is not needed for the successful election of a candidate. It says where, after withdrawal of candidatures, there remain more than two contestants for election, the one obtaining more votes than the aggregate of ballots of others will be declared to have been elected. If none secures more votes than the aggregate ballots of the other aspirants, there will be a fresh ballot at which the candidate who bagged the lowest number of votes at the last ballot will be excluded from the race. The balloting will, in like manner, proceed until one contestant secures more votes than the remaining candidate or candidates in the aggregate. Such contestant will be declared to have been elected.

Where, at any ballot, any three or more candidates secure an equal number of votes and one of them has to be excluded from election, the question as to which one is to be taken out will be determined by drawing of lots.

The rule further says where, after withdrawals, there remain only two aspirants in the run, a ballot will be held between them and the aspirant who secures more votes than the other will be declared to have been elected. If both secure an equal number of votes, a fresh ballot will be held between them until one of them gets more votes than the other. The one clinching more votes will be declared to have been elected.



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