islamabad: All eyes on Pakistan army as opposition gears up for no-trust move against Imran – Times of India

ISLAMABAD: As political temperature in Pakistan soars, prime minister Imran Khan faces the heat of a no-confidence motion in the coming weeks, as announced by the opposition parties on February 11 in the National Assembly. The 342-member National Assembly must have 172 votes for the no-confidence motion to ensure Khan’s removal. Though no date is decided yet for the vote, the opposition claims it has more votes than required.
To galvanise legislators for the vote, several opposition parties have announced long marches to Islamabad in March. Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) will march to Islamabad from Karachi on February 27. The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an alliance of nine opposition parties, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Maulana Fazlur Rehman-led right-wing Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (FUI-F), has announced its march on Islamabad to March 23.
The opposition has also claimed that the “establishment”, a euphemism for the military’s powerful grip on Islamabad, will stay “neutral” and will not come to the rescue of the “selected PM”, a crucial factor behind the opposition’s confident push for Khan’s removal. The opposition has long alleged that the 2018 polls were rigged by the establishment, and that Khan’s government cannot survive a day without military support.
Government sources reject the opposition’s claim that the “establishment is annoyed at Khan’s incompetent governance”, saying there is no discord between Khan and the men in uniform. Amid these counter claims, the military and the government have avoided speaking in public on thorny issues, which could determine Khan’s exit.
One such issue is the retirement of the incumbent army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa. His term, which Khan extended for three years in 2019, ends in November. The opposition is determined to deny Khan the opportunity of appointing the next army chief, which is only possible with his removal.
According to Islamabad’s political grapevine, Khan is likely to replace Bajwa with Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, former ISI chief, currently posted as corps commander of Peshawar. As ISI chief, Hameed was also Islamabad’s “emergency” emissary to Kabul soon after the Afghan capital fell to the Taliban last August.
Bajwa transferred Hameed out of the ISI last October within months of the Kabul visit. Khan’s insistence to retain him as ISI chief apparently contributed to the PM’s strained relations with the establishment. Hameed’s transfer was part of a reshuffle of the army brass.
The opposition’s mistrust of Hameed also stems from the concern that he was allegedly behind the anti-blasphemy sit-in protests of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, a right-wing party, against the previous government.
With Hameed as army chief, the opposition fears harsh government reprisal leading to an uneven playing field in elections due in 2023. There are fears that if Khan survives a no-trust move, he will possibly announce the next army chief before April-end.
To make the no-trust move a success, the opposition is banking on the support of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and a disgruntled group of lawmakers led by estranged party leader Jehangir Tareen of Khan’s own party, Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf. In Pakistan’s parliamentary history, the only no-confidence motion in the lower house that failed was brought against slain leader Benazir Bhutto in 1989.

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