Imran Khan ‘confident’ of victory; opposition eyes ‘treason’ case

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Islamabad, April 3: Ahead of the crucial no-confidence vote, Pakistan’s embattled Prime Minister Imran Khan has assured his ruling party lawmakers of victory while Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif said that a “treason” case should be first registered against the Premier.

The 69-year-old cricketer-turned politician is facing the no-confidence motion, which was tabled by the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Sharif on March 28. The National Assembly is scheduled to vote on the no-trust motion on Sunday.

The Prime Minister needs 172 votes in the Lower House of 342 to foil the Opposition’s bid to topple him. However, the Opposition claims it has the support of 175 lawmakers and the Prime Minister should immediately resign. Khan, who is now facing the prospect of being run out in the number game in Parliament on Sunday with key allies deserting him and a sizable number of rebel lawmakers vowing to vote against him, said that the “match is not over till the last ball.

I am not worried about tomorrow… God willing, we will emerge victorious”, The Express Tribune newspaper reported. Addressing the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) parliamentarians at the Prime Minister’s House here on Saturday, he took a jibe at Shehbaz, saying the one who had his ‘sherwani’ ready for premiership does not know what is going to happen to him on Sunday.

In a press conference immediately after Khan’s address, Pakistan Muslim League (N) president Shahbaz said: “Treason case should be first registered against Imran Khan… by not ending his [2014] sit-in, Imran Khan harmed the nation’s pride”. He said that if politicians get involved in “treason and patriotism”, then the matter will get out of hand, Geo News reported. He also warned that if Khan goes against the Constitution and the law, then they will take their course.

Shahbaz’s statement on treason came as Prime Minister Khan alleges that the no-confidence motion moved against him is a “foreign conspiracy”. “Imran Khan, instead of admitting defeat, is busy dividing the nation. He is refusing to follow the constitutional and legal path.

“He is inciting his supporters to sabotage the decision that will be taken in Parliament tomorrow,” said Shahbaz on Imran’s call for protests on Sunday ahead of the vote on the no-confidence motion. Khan, who came to power in 2018 with promises to create a ‘Naya Pakistan’, is at a critical juncture of his political career as he has lost majority after defection from his PTI party.

Two of his allied parties also withdrew their support and joined the ranks of the rejuvenated Opposition. A defiant Khan has said that he will not resign despite losing the majority and insisted that he will “fight till the last ball” and face the vote of no-confidence in the National Assembly on Sunday. Hours before the voting, Khan urged the country’s youth to stage “peaceful protests” against a “foreign conspiracy” allegedly hatched against his government.

He told them that he has “more than one plan” for Sunday’s crucial vote on the no-confidence motion. No Pakistani prime minister has ever completed a full five-year term in office. Also, no prime minister in Pakistan’s history has ever been ousted through a no-confidence motion, and Khan is the third premier to face the challenge. Since coming to power in 2018, Khan has miserably failed to address the basic problem of keeping the prices of commodities in control, allowing the Opposition to target his government as inefficient. Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has at least twice met Prime Minister Khan this week.

The powerful Pakistan Army, which has ruled the coup-prone country for more than half of its 73 plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy. A highly placed source in the federal government has told PTI that backdoor talks between the government and the joint Opposition are underway on the issue of no-confidence motion against Khan. Khan has accused the Opposition of playing in foreign hands and indicated that if he survived the no-confidence vote, he would call for early elections. He has termed the opposition parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), as a “disgrace” to the country and said it was due their policies in the past that a foreign power was openly calling for regime change in Pakistan. Khan, one of the fastest bowlers in the world during his cricketing career and one of the pioneers of the reverse swing bowling technique, last month said that he will take three wickets with one inswing yorker, referring to three top Opposition leaders – PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif, PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

Agencies