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‘Now or never’: Opposition confident it has enough lawmakers to oust Imran as PM

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Opposition bigwigs on Monday appeared confident about the success of the no-trust motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan, which was submitted to the National Assembly Secretariat earlier in the day.

Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif and PPP co-chair Asif Ali Zardari held joint press conference in Islamabad to explain the reasons behind tabling the motion.

Shehbaz kicked off the press conference by explaining the need for the no-confidence motion against the government. “What has been done to this country’s economy and socially, there is no other example of such destruction in Pakistan’s history,” he said, adding that the rise in inflation was the biggest concern according to latest surveys.

He also lamented foreign policy failures, regretting the fact that “friends” that had supported the country during tough times were angered. “What type of foreign policy is it to upset China,” he asked, pointing towards criticism and “baseless allegations” against Chinese funded development projects.

The PML-N said PM Imran had criticised the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor before his election to the office of the prime minister.

He further censured PM Imran for lambasting European Union (EU) countries over asking Pakistan to vote against Russia during a recently held special session of the United Nations General Assembly.

This, he lamented, had angered EU nations.

He also lashed out at PM Imran’s assertion that “foreign hands” were behind the opposition’s no-confidence motion, pointing towards rising inflation and the economic crisis. “I believe no accusation can be more foolish and baseless [than this].”

The PML-N president said that the opposition had taken the step after making an informed decision. “The motion has been submitted to the NA speaker,” he said, adding that it was a matter of “national interest”.

He said that opposition lawmakers held meetings for several weeks and had decided that the “people would not forgive them” if they had delayed it further.

Shehbaz said a meeting was held between PPP and PDM leaders was held yesterday (Monday) at Zardari House in Islamabad, where it was decided that the no-confidence motion would be submitted in the National Assembly today.

“We kept it a secret,” he said, adding that the motion was eventually submitted today.

He said the decision to table the no-confidence motion was not taken for “our personal interest but in light of the wishes of people of Pakistan, who have been praying for deliverance from this government”.

Rehman also regretted the state of affairs over the past three-and-a-half years, reiterating that the 2018 election was “stolen and rigged”. He also lashed out at the PTI government for weakening the country’s economy.

“We have submitted the no-confidence motion in the NA secretariat. Their days are numbered,” he exclaimed, adding that the government “deceived” the nation.

Rehman also castigated the premier for “threatening and cursing” at opposition leaders during a recent public gathering.

He continued that the opposition did not have an “enmity” with anyone and only had a difference of opinion which should be discussed in a “political and democratic” manner.

“We are standing with the country, the Constitution and with democracy. We want to make Pakistan stable. We have no enmity with any institution, but when it come to disagreeing with their decisions and behaviour, we disagreed openly and with respect.

“There is no enmity with anyone but we have to take the country forward,” he reiterated. The PDM chief appeared confident about the success of the no-confidence motion, stating that the opposition would get rid of the “inefficient” government.

Zardari began his address on a lighter note by apologising for the delay in holding the press conference, which was originally supposed to start at 4:30pm. He attributed the delay to traffic and the PPP’s ongoing anti-government march.

Congratulating journalist Hamid Mir for being allowed back on-air, he said that nobody had a right to silence anyone in a democracy.

“In my five years as president, journalists disagreed with me and made allegations [but] I endured it all. This is a democracy,” he said, in an apparent criticism of the government’s crackdown on electronic media.

He said that the opposition decided at one point that it was “now or never”. “This [destruction] is continuing and it will worsen to such an extent where no one will be able to rectify it.”

Zardari said that the opposition consulted each other and came to the conclusion that a single party could not take the country out of this “difficult situation”. “We will all have to work together.”

The PPP co-chair also invited “distant friends” to help the opposition work together to rid the country and coming generations of this difficult situation.

Zardari also assured the media that the opposition had the numbers it needed, saying: “We will get more than 172 votes.”

He continued that people within the PTI and their allies were also “fed up” with the government’s performance. “They all have to return to their constituencies. What answer will they give when they return?”

To another question about whether the opposition had the support of the Balochistan National Party, which is an ally of the PTI, Shehbaz said the party’s delegation had met him.

“It is our right, obligation and responsibility to approach everyone,” he said, adding that they would also appeal to those PTI members who had a conscience to “come forward and put an end to the destruction under the garb of tabdeeli (change)”.

Shehbaz said the opposition had also contacted another PTI ally, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and that it was a “political process”.

When asked what would happen if the opposition succeeded in passing the no-confidence motion, Rehman said “these matters might have already been decided and if not, then, probably, the decisions are about to be made”.

To a question about whether the PPP had planned that the culmination of its anti-government march on Islamabad would coincide with the submission of the n-confidence motion, Zardari replied that there was no such plan and it was “nature’s marvel”.

Asked whether the opposition had decided on a candidate for the prime minister, Shehbaz said the decision would be made after consulting all opposition parties.

When a reporter repeated the question, he said the name of the candidate would not be revealed now.

PPP march reaches capital

Meanwhile, the PPP’s anti-government march reached Islamabad on Tuesday, where party chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari addressed the participants in the capital’s Rawat area.

Speaking to the participants, Zardari said “the time is here to send Imran Khan home”. “We will remove the impure Khan and bring a sharif (pure) person; we will relieve people of pain,” said Zardari.

The protesters started their march from that spot towards D-Chowk, where they plan to reach today.

An update on the PPP’s Twitter said they had reached Rawalpindi by late evening.

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