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Friday June 14, 2024

NA reposes 'complete' confidence in PM Shehbaz's leadership

Prime minister secures 180 votes; house rejects resolution to table bill for poll funds; censures SC judges

By Ayaz Akbar Yousafzai & Waqar Satti
April 27, 2023

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (left) speaks to PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari during a National Assembly session, on April 27, 2023. — Twitter/@NAofPakistan
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (left) speaks to PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari during a National Assembly session, on April 27, 2023. — Twitter/@NAofPakistan

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly has expressed "complete" confidence in the leadership of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as the government remains embattled over the polls with the Supreme Court.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari tabled the resolution, on which 180 Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) voted yes, as opposed to 174 when Shehbaz was elected as the prime minister in April last year.

"The National Assembly of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan reposes its full confidence in the Leadership of Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, as the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan," the resolution read. 

The prime minister took the vote of confidence after the assembly rejected the money bill tabled by the government for providing funds to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for holding polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — on the orders of the Supreme Court.

When the bill was rejected, apparently for the first time in history, the top court — hearing a petition seeking polls simultaneously — implied that the prime minister did not have the confidence of the house.

In its order, the SC stated: "In terms of the system of parliamentary democracy envisaged by the Constitution, the [prime minister] must enjoy the confidence of the majority of the NA at all times."

Former prime minister Imran Khan also won a vote of confidence — securing 178 votes, six more than required to maintain the majority — from the lower house on March 6, 2021. A special session of the NA was called after the former ruling party — Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) — faced an upset in the Senate elections.

'We accept decision of majority judges'

Addressing on the floor of the National Assembly after securing a confidence vote, the prime minister thanked the coalition partners for reposing their trust in his leadership.

"Today, Pakistan is facing serious challenges [...] Pakistan’s economy was prospering before the 2018 elections," he said while blaming the previous PTI-led government for the prevailing economic crisis.

The "entire world" is aware of how RTS was compromised and the 2018 election results were manipulated. Former chief justice Saqib Nisar ordered to stop the recounting of votes when we challenged the election results, he said.

When talks were progressing with International Monetary Fund (IMF), the two assemblies were dissolved at the whims of Imran Khan to create difficulties for the government.

Referring to the PTI chief's ‘foreign conspiracy’ narrative, PM Shehbaz said the incumbent government is importing cheap Russian oil "which will arrive soon in the country".

He said had his government been formed as a result of a foreign-backed conspiracy, it would not have imported oil from Russia.

“Today, the decisions of parliament are being challenged. It is not possible that a court stops the implementation of a law which has not been enacted yet," he said, taking about the top court's decision to stop the implementation of the bill seeking to curb the chief justice's powers.

"We don’t accept the decision of a three-member bench. We accept the decision of a majority of four judges," he said while referring to the Punjab elections delay case verdict of the Supreme Court.

"The allied parties have decided to hold negotiations with PTI in Senate and we will send our representatives in this regard today, but talks will be held only on holding polls across the country simultaneously."

PM Shehbaz said the legislation is the constitutional right of the Parliament. “No power in the world can take away the authority of the Parliament. I am a member of this Parliament and I stand with you," he roared.

The prime minister also mentioned that even if the Supreme Court disqualifies him for not following up on its order, he would accept it for keeping the supremacy of the parliament intact.

No negotiations 'under duress'

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) leader Maulana Asad Mahmood demanded that three judges of the top court — including Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial — be summoned to the house's privileges committee.

On the floor of the house, the JUI-F leader said the judges cannot subdue the parliament as it is the "most superior" forum of the people's representation.

Mahmood added that the government should stick to its stance of holding polls across the country simultaneously and not come under any pressure — not even from the top court.

"We agree with the suggestion of the prime minister to hold talks, but we will not negotiate under duress; we will reject it," the JUI-F leader said.

In his speech, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said the prime minister has said that he will accept disqualification, but the house does not accept any decision of three judges who are acting as the PTI chief's "facilitators".

"...we were told to hold negotiations. It is the Supreme Court. We respect the Supreme Court, but this isn't its job. The decisions generated to protect someone's interests are not accepted," the defence minister said.

Asif stressed the prime minister should not leave the seat due to three judges. "This house has time and again said that it does not accept [minority] decisions."