Catch 22: KP treasury, opposition in a fix as constitutional crisis looms


PESHAWAR: Constitutional crisis looms as the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has lost majority in 124-member Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly but the number-strong opposition is also in a fix whether or not to turn the tables on Chief Minister Pervez Khattak as no party is willing to take over the baton for the remaining one month, full of political, economic and constitutional challenges.

The action announced by PTI Chairman Imran Khan against 20 of his party lawmakers for allegations of selling their votes in the recently held Senate elections.

The KP Assembly originally had 124 members but since minority member of PTI Baldev Kumar was not allowed to take the oath while another PTI lawmaker Abdul Munim was disqualified for not completing the two-year mandatory period after government service, the assembly has been left with 122 lawmakers.

After expelling its 18 legislators, PTI has been left with 43 members, losing the majority in the house. In an apparent shock over the apparent surprise move, the lawmakers termed as ‘traitors’ are yet to chalk out their future plan of action. Perhaps, the ‘victims’ are contemplating their future course of action.

Although PTI has taken the high moral ground by taking action against the ‘traitor’ lawmakers of the party who voted for opposition candidates in Senate elections allegedly in return for money, CM Khattak is in a fix after losing the majority in the house.

Hence, the opposition is in a strong position if it decides to submit a ‘no confidence motion’ as is being claimed by some of the opposition members. However, the opposition leaders appear confused about taking action.

The opposition parties also seem to be wrong-footed as they have even failed to assemble for once since Khan announced action against his party’s lawmakers.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) which had actually 16 members is now short of its member Wajihuz Zaman Khan who has jumped ship.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) has also lost its member Fazal Shakoor who has joined PTI. Awami National Party (ANP) has its five members intact while Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) has lost its member Babar Salim who has joined PML-N. PTI’s ousted lawmakers Ziaullah Afridi and Deena Naz have joined Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) which has taken its tally from six to eight members.

Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) has been a major loser in the current crisis as half of its lawmakers have jumped ship.

When contacted, ANP lawmaker Sardar Hussain Babak confirmed that the opposition was yet to devise its future strategy.

“Leader of the opposition has been busy for the past two days and is not here in Peshawar. He would back in the next two days and then the opposition would meet and discuss its future strategy,” he said.

Asked what the options were left for the opposition, Babak said that the opposition was in a fix whether or not to table a no-confidence motion against Khattak.

“It is a very tricky situation. We are yet to sit and discuss our strategy. But nobody wants to be elected as the chief minister for a few weeks,” he added.

QWP chief Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said that there is no apparent consensus among treasury or opposition benches to take any move as any action would be useless.

“Why would anyone move a no-confidence motion against Khattak? Who would like to become chief minister for one month where there are several challenges for the chief minister, including presenting the provincial budget,” he argued.

Discounting the possibility of a no-confidence motion, Sherpao said that the current crisis may lead to a situation where KP Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra may ask CM Khattak to take the vote of confidence in wake of the crisis situation.

When asked that what would happen if Khattak fails to attain a majority in the house, Sherpao said that it would again lead to a crisis situation as nobody would like to take up the job for one crucial month.

“I say so because the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has also imposed a ban on transfers, appointments and development projects,” he argued.

Sherpao said that perhaps PTI chief has taken advantage of the situation because he has made a calculated move knowing well that no one would want to form the government for one month.

“Moreover, such a step would benefit PTI as they may play the victimhood card too if its government is toppled at this stage,” he said.

Sherpao said that the PTI has also taken another crucial step by refusing to present the upcoming budget on the pretext that it was the right of the new government.

“This is a very critical step. If the new budget is not presented, it may lead to the shutdown of the government and the public servants would not be able to draw salaries in June leading to a constitutional crisis,” remarked the former KP chief minister.

He said the PTI government should present the budget for at least three months so as the financial affairs of the province are not affected. He said that the refusal to table the budget was a cover-up to hide the wrongdoings of his party’s government.

Sherpao said that although the PTI chief makes tall claims against corruption, his nominated filthy rich candidates for the Senate elections had used their money for the elections. He further alleged that another six lawmakers of PTI had also sold their votes in Senate elections but the party chief did not take action against his blue-eyed people.