Defence Minister Khawaja Asif Monday said that Prime Minister Shehbaz can take the vote of confidence to show his strength in the National Assembly and it is not necessary that it is done at someone's demand.
The remarks from the senior minister came in response to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan's demand for PM Shehbaz Sharif to take a vote of confidence.
The PTI chairman had hinted at testing the premier after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's (PML-N) ally Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) warned the ruling alliance of quitting the government.
It may be noted that MQM-P's votes are crucial to keep the incumbent prime minister in office.
However, Asif was confident that even if PM Shehbaz Sharif is asked to take the trust vote, the PML-N has enough numbers to be successful.
"The Centre faces no threat from the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly," the minister said while responding to a question, in a media talk on Monday.
He expressed similar views while speaking at Geo News programmme Aaj Shazeb Khanzada Kay Sath, which was aired late Monday night. The PML-N has not been damaged nor will it be cornered, he asserted.
However, he said if Hamza Shahbaz, the former Punjab chief minister, had been present at the time of the vote of confidence in the Punjab Assembly then the situation would have been different.
Replying to a query regarding the PTI's comeback to the lower house, Khawaja Asif said the party returned to the assembly with disgrace in 2014 as well. If they return to the assembly, it is their right to speak on the floor of the house, he added.
He said PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif was waiting for the party to provide him with legal cover for his return home. All preparations for his homecoming are complete, he said, adding he would come back to the country as soon as lawyers confirmed legal preparations were complete.
Asif said that what happened to Nawaz Sharif was a tragedy as he was penalised for not taking a salary from his son. In comparison, he said, Imran Khan's hands are stained with the Toshakhana scam and innumerable cases are pending against him. Imran Khan has a long list of crimes, he asserted.
The PML-N, along with all its allies, will finalise a name for caretaker chief minister of Punjab today, he said.
In yet another apparent U-turn, former premier Imran Khan, who had been ruling out the possibility of returning to assemblies, said earlier in the day that party lawmakers could go back to the NA for the caretaker setup.
The PTI parliamentarians tendered their resignations en masse on April 11, two days after Khan was ousted as prime minister through a no-trust move.
During an interaction with journalists in Lahore, the PTI chief said that they had devised a strategy for the lower house of parliament.
“We will make Shehbaz Sharif’s sleep restless soon,” he added. Khan's latest comment comes two days after he had said that Premier Shehbaz would have to take a trust vote, claiming that several PML-N MNAs were in contact with his party.
New political scenario as Imran hints at return to NA
Responding to a query about the newly emerging political scenario, Khawaja Asif said, "Let the PTI first come to the National Assembly. We will see what happens after they come."
Following Imran’s hint at going back to the Parliament, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Monday said the coalition government will “welcome back” the PTI lawmakers to the National Assembly if they decide to return, but clarified that discussions on an interim setup would not be held before the end of the mandated tenure of the government in August.
In an interview with a private TV channel, Sanaullah said: “Of course, we will welcome them [back] into the assembly as even when they were leaving, we had said it was an undemocratic decision.”
Sanaullah said the PTI MNAs will have to withdraw their resignations to get back to the National Assembly. “Further, Imran will also have to submit a request to the speaker in order to become the leader of the opposition.”
He reiterated that the general elections will be held upon the expiry of the parliament’s five-year term.
“When the tenure of the assemblies would end on Aug 16, 2023, he (Imran) will be part of the consultation as the leader of the opposition and then the decision of the caretaker would be made.”
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