Pakistani PM to face confidence vote after Senate blow

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party says he will submit to confidence vote after losing key Senate seat in Wednesday poll.

Imran Khan
As per unofficial results, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party still made the largest gains in the election [File: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

Islamabad, Pakistan – Prime Minister Imran Khan will face a vote of confidence from the country’s Parliament after suffering defeat on a key seat in the country’s Senate elections, party officials say.

Elections for 48 seats of the Senate, the 96-member upper house of parliament, were held on Wednesday, with legislators voting through the day in the country’s provincial assemblies and in the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament.

Official results are expected on Thursday, but unofficial results from the country’s Election Commission indicated Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party had suffered a key defeat in the National Assembly, where the opposition candidate defeated the PTI’s Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.

In a close vote, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) defeated Shaikh, who currently serves as the country’s finance minister, by 169 to 164 votes, according to unofficial results.

The result came as a blow to Khan’s PTI as his party and its allies control the National Assembly, and the implication is that some members or allies may have defected when they voted by secret ballot.

Lawmakers arrive to cast their votes in Senate elections at the provincial assembly in Peshawar, Pakistan [Muhammad Sajjad/AP]

Following the announcement of that result, senior PTI leader and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi addressed a press conference in the capital Islamabad alleging the opposition engaged in corrupt practices to sway lawmakers’ voters.

“Imran Khan and his party have made a unanimous decision that [the prime minister] will seek a vote of confidence from this house,” said Qureshi.

“And it will be clear who stands where. Those who stand with Imran Khan, they will be visible, and those who are not standing with him, or those who think that they prefer the ideology of [the opposition], then they have every right to clearly join their ranks.”

Khan party makes gains

As per unofficial results, Khan’s PTI still made the largest gains in the election, increasing its share of seats in the Senate to 26 from the 14 it previously held.

The opposition, however, may narrowly maintain its hold over the upper house of Parliament, with the PPP projected to hold 20 seats and the Pakistan Muslim League’s Nawaz faction (PML-N) 18 seats.

Alongside their allies, the PPP and PML-N are projected to hold 53 seats, enough to give them control of the upper house of Parliament.

Members of Pakistan’s 96-member upper house are elected for staggered six-year terms, with elections for half of the house every three years. Senators are elected by provincial lawmakers and members of the lower house.

Earlier this week, Khan’s party failed in a bid to require voting be done by open ballot, an attempt to ensure transparency in lawmakers’ voting, when the country’s Supreme Court ruled the practice would be unconstitutional.

Senate elections in the South Asian country, conducted by secret ballot, have long been marred by allegations of bribery and wrongdoing, with results often at odds with the official voting positions of political parties.

In 2018, Khan’s party expelled 20 members for allegedly engaging in corrupt practices during the last Senate elections, held in March that year.

Official results of Wednesday’s poll are expected to be announced on Thursday.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim

Source: Al Jazeera