Pakistan’s parliament will convene on Friday to take up a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan, the lower house speaker’s office said on Sunday, heightening fears of political turmoil in the country.
An alliance of opposition parties filed the motion against Khan earlier this month, saying he had lost his parliamentary majority after more than a dozen defections from his party.
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Under the constitution, the speaker of the lower house of parliament is required to convene the session within 14 days of receiving the motion, a deadline which would fall on Monday.
But a statement from the speaker’s office said the date was pushed back several days because of a conference of Islamic countries in the capital Islamabad scheduled for March 23.
Without the coalition partners and the dissidents, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which has 155 seats in the lower house, would fall short of the 172 needed to retain power.
The joint opposition has a strength of nearly 163 but could build a majority if most of the defectors effectively join its ranks via a no-confidence vote.
The opposition accuses Khan of mismanaging the economy and foreign policy.
No Pakistani PM has ever completed a full term.
During a rally on Sunday, Khan appealed to the disgruntled lawmakers to return to the ruling party.
“Come back and I will forgive you. We all make mistakes,” he said in the city of Malakand in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. “Like a father forgives his children.”
Moreover, Khan has called on the public to show support for his premiership by holding a “million-man” rally in Islamabad on March 27.
Khan’s PTI has accused some in the opposition of bribing and offering political favours to dissidents and other allies in an attempt to bring down the government.
On Sunday, Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the PTI had formally asked dissident members to clarify their positions within seven days or face consequences.
Earlier this week, Chaudhry announced the party will file a motion in the country’s Supreme Court regarding defections during a vote of no-confidence, and its legality under Pakistan’s constitution.
Opposition and political analysts also say Khan has fallen out with Pakistan’s powerful military, whose support is critical for any party to attain power.
Khan and the military deny the accusation.