March 16th, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
The National Assembly will see a new round of alliances and coalitions for the election of a new prime minister if the planned no-confidence motion against incumbent Imran Khan is passed with the majority of the lower house at the end of this month.
Voting on the no-confidence resolution
The opposition submitted a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan on March 8. As per article 54 (3) of the constitution, the session of the National Assembly is to be called within 14 days to consider the motion. Once the no-confidence resolution is moved in the National Assembly, the Speaker can hold voting after three to seven days.
According to Kanwar Dilshad, former secretary of Election Commission, the Speaker does not have a role in the no-trust vote except to hold voting in the manner prescribed under the rules. The Speaker cannot bar members from voting in the no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister on the basis of the defection clause in the Constitution, he told Voicepk.net.
On the day of voting on the no-confidence motion, the Speaker will begin with reading out the resolution before the National Assembly and ask the members who wish to vote in favour of the resolution to pass in single file through the entrance where tellers would be posted to record the votes. The Speaker will announce result after votes are counted by the assembly staff.
According to the Constitution, if a resolution for a vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister is passed by a majority (172 members) of the total membership of the lower house , the Prime Minister will cease to hold office.
The Speaker of National Assembly is to intimate the result of the no-trust resolution in writing to the President. The cabinet secretary would issue a notification in the official gazette about the dissolution of the federal cabinet. All powers of the federal cabinet, including the Prime Minister, would revert to the President till a new prime minister is appointed.
Dilshad said those party members that defect from voting on party lines were not automatically disqualified. The head of the party has to first issue a show-cause notice to a defecting member. If the explanation is not satisfactory, the party head will send a declaration to the Speaker who is to refer it to the Chief Election Commissioner within two days. The Election Commission is bound to decide disqualification of a member on basis of defection within 30 days. The disqualified member can appeal the Election Commission’s decision to the Supreme Court which has to decide the appeal within 90 days.
Opposition coalition elects new PM
The opposition parties currently have 162 members in the National Assembly and would require 172 votes to elect their candidate as the new prime minister. The opposition benches are made up of 84 Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz members, 56 Pakistan Peoples Party members, 15 Muttahida Majlis Amal members, four Balochistan National Party-Mengal members, one Awami National Party member, and two independents.
The opposition coalition would require the support of 17 members of three allied parties- Pakistan Muslim League-Q, Balochistan Awami Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan- to comfortably elect their prime ministerial candidate and form the new federal government. The new coalition government would have a total strength of 179 in the house of 341 members as one seat is currently vacant.
PPP chairman Asif Zardari has announced that PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif would be the candidate for prime minister from the opposition coalition. The disgruntled members from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf could also join the coalition if they form a forward bloc to escape the defection clause in the Constitution.
The incumbent prime minister will have the powers to dissolve the National Assembly and call for fresh elections under a caretaker set-up as per the Constitution.
Under the Rules of Procedure, whenever the office of the Prime Minister falls vacant for any reason, the National Assembly shall, to the exclusion of any other business, proceed to elect without debate one of its Muslim members to be the Prime Minister.
The Speaker of the National Assembly will announce a time and date of submission of nomination papers and election of the new leader of the house (Prime Minister).
Any member may propose or second the name of any Muslim member as candidate for election as Prime Minister. Every nomination paper is to be delivered by the candidate or his proposer or seconder to the National Assembly Secretary on the day preceding the day on which the election of Prime Minister is to be held.
The Speaker will declare a candidate to have been elected as prime minister if he/she votes of the majority (172) of the total membership of the National Assembly.
Repoll in case of no candidate gets 172 votes
If there are two or more contesting candidates and if no contesting candidate secures such majority in the first poll, a second poll shall be held between the candidates who secure the two highest numbers of votes in the first poll and the candidate who secures a majority of votes of the members present and voting shall be declared to have been elected as Prime Minister.
In case of a tie, polling would be held afresh till a candidate secures majority of the total members present in the session of the National Assembly.
PTI coalition elects new PM
The ruling PTI alliance now has 179 MNAs in the National Assembly. The PTI, which has 155 members in the National Assembly, can either field Imran Khan or any other consensus party stalwart or alliance member as prime ministerial candidate to appease disgruntled members and win back support of allies like PML-Q, MQM-P and BAP to form a new government.
In a bid to assuage the opposition, the PTI also have the option of forming a unity government by inviting all parties in opposition to join the government for the remainder of the term of the National Assembly.
Dissolution of National Assembly, appointment of caretaker PM
The most least likely scenario is that the President dissolves the National Assembly after members fail to elect Prime Minister in its session. Under the Constitution, a member can be elected prime minister without getting 172 votes (majority of 342 member) but manages to get majority of members present in the session called for the election.
According to Article 58 (2) of the Constitution, the President may also dissolve the National Assembly in his discretion where, a vote of no-confidence having been passed against the Prime Minister, no other member of the National Assembly command the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution as ascertained in a session of the National Assembly summoned for the purpose.
In case of dissolution of the National Assembly, the President will appoint a caretaker prime minister in consultation with the Prime Minister and the opposition leader in National Assembly. The caretaker federal cabinet is to hold a general election within 90 days of the dissolution.