By Sajjad Hussain
(Eds: Combining related stories)
Islamabad, Mar 5 (PTI) In a relief for Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on the eve of a vote of confidence on his government, the Opposition alliance on Friday announced that they will boycott the floor test, claiming that their candidate's victory in the Senate election was itself a "no-confidence motion" against the premier.
Pakistan Democratic Movement chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said no Opposition member will attend the National Assembly session scheduled for Saturday, in which Prime Minister Khan will seek a vote of confidence.
The announcement from the chief of the PDM, a 10-party Opposition alliance, comes after Khan delivered an address to the nation, explaining why he was seeking a vote of confidence in the wake of the Senate elections in which the opposition managed to stage an upset.
PDM candidate and former prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani defeated ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Wednesday, in a major blow to Khan, who had personally campaigned for his Cabinet colleague.
Rehman said Gilani's "victory was itself a no-confidence motion against Khan".
He claimed that President Arif Alvi in his notification to summon Saturday's session had essentially stated that Prime Minister Khan had "lost the trust of the majority" and he, therefore, needed to seek a vote of confidence.
"So when the president talks about losing trust to call the session of the National Assembly, then this further strengthens the stance of the Opposition," he was quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.
Prime Minister Khan has convened a meeting of his allies on Friday to firm up his strategy, a day ahead of seeking a vote of confidence from the National Assembly following a key defeat in this week's closely-contested Senate elections.
Khan needs the support of 171 lawmakers in the National Assembly, currently having 341 members out of total 342, as one seat is vacant.
Khan's PTI has 157 lawmakers. The Opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has 83 member and the Pakistan Peoples Party has 55 lawmakers. PTI leaders have said they are confident that Khan will overcome the floor test.
Minister for Science Fawad Chaudhry said that Khan will easily win the confidence vote as PTI's woman candidate for Senate, Fouzia Arshad, got 174 votes on Wednesday and won in the house where Shaikh got 164 votes and was defeated.
"The requisite support is available and Khan will easily win,” he said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan's election commission on Friday expressed shock and disappointment over Prime Minister Khan's allegations against it, asserting that the Senate elections were held as per the Constitution and it has "never come under any sort of pressure and God willing, will not in future as well."
The strong comments were made by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in a statement following a crucial meeting of its members to review Prime Minister Khan's statements against it on Thursday in an address to the nation.
The meeting was summoned by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja.
Prime Minister Khan lashed out at the election commission which he said failed to stop corruption in Wednesday's closely-contested Senate elections.
"You (ECP) discredited democracy…you damaged the morality of the nation by doing nothing to stop vote-buying," he alleged.
In its response, the ECP said, "this is the beauty of democracy and independent elections and the secret ballot which the entire nation witnessed, which was according to the Constitution."
Rejecting Khan's allegations, the commission said it has "never come under any sort of pressure and God willing, will not in future as well".
"We cannot ignore the law and the Constitution to please anyone," said the ECP in its statement.
Urging its critics to bring forward evidence of the ECP's wrongdoing, it asked them to not indulge in mud slinging on national institutions. PTI SH RS MRJ AKJ MRJ