Imran Khan’s address to the nation comes amid two ministers from his ally Muttahida Qaumi Movement (Pakistan) tendering resignations. Syed Aminul Haq and Farogh Naseem have formally quit the cabinet.
‘He has to resign, he can’t keep running for long. Parliament Session is tomorrow, let’s have the voting tomorrow and settle the matter so that we can go ahead,’ Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party, said in a joint press conference with members of the opposition parties.
The PTI government was formed with 179 members in the 342-member Assembly. With the MQM’s exit, Imran Khan’s government is left with just 164 lawmakers.
The opposition camp including PML-N, Pakistan People’s Party, MQM, Balochistan Awami Party and smaller parties has 177 members and does not require the support of dissident PTI lawmakers.
Mr. Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) needs 172 votes in the lower house of 342 to foil the Opposition’s bid to topple him. The Opposition has claimed that it has the support of 175 lawmakers and the Prime Minister should immediately resign.
With the no-confidence motion already tabled, Imran Khan according to the constitution cannot dissolve the assembly and call for fresh elections. If he loses the vote, the opposition will be given a chance to form the government.
“We are getting messages from some foreign countries… They say that they will forgive Pakistan if Imran Khan goes,” he said in an address to the nation this evening, amid reports of efforts to reach a deal between the premier and the joint opposition to dissolve the lower house.
‘Three stooges are sitting here working with foreign powers. They want Imran Khan to be ousted and want this certain person to take this place and everything will be fine then,” he said. “If you think that your conspiracy will be successful, I want to tell you I will fight with this. They can’t do anything,’ he added.
If Khan is unable to prove his majority in Sunday’s vote, he will be the first Prime Minister in the country to be ousted through a no-confidence motion.
He, however, indicated that he would fight, given his sporting background, ’till the last ball’ rather than tender his resignation.
“I chose to enter politics to realize the vision of our founders,” he said. ‘Most people before joining politics are unknown names. But that wasn’t my case. I was endowed with everything… I wouldn’t have entered politics, had Allah not put imaan (faith) in me,’ he said.
In the history of Pakistan’s politics, no prime minister has completed a full term in office. The all-powerful army continues to dominate the political discourse, with Islamabad being ruled by men in uniform for more than three decades.
The PM even appeared to make a blunder when he named the United States as the origin of a ‘message’ he said showed meddling in Pakistan’s affairs, quickly retracting his words thereafter.
‘America has — oh, not America but a foreign country I can’t name. I mean from a foreign country, we received a message,’ he seemingly fumbled.
Local media have reported the message was in a briefing letter from Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington recording a senior US official telling him they felt relations would be better ‘if Khan left office.’
US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters there was “no truth” to the allegations.
Khan has long complained that Pakistan was asked to sacrifice too much in being an ally in the war on terror, launched in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, with little to no recognition of their efforts.
‘Has anyone said ‘thank you Pakistan’ for what we did?’ he asked in his speech.
Khan’s address touched on many de rigeur topics including his efforts to get Islamophobia recognized as a global threat, and charting an independent path for Pakistan on the world stage.
Khan visit to Moscow the day Russia invaded Ukraine also raised eyebrows in the West, but he defended the trip, saying: ‘Even European leaders went to Russia, but Pakistan in particular is asked ‘why did you go’ as if we are their servants.’
Debate on the no-confidence motion was due to start Thursday, but the deputy speaker from Khan’s party suspended proceedings, when legislators declined to first address other items on the agenda.
The Pakistani Parliament will be in session again on Sunday morning.