By Asif Shahzad
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s government asked the Supreme Court on Monday to advise if it could seek lifelong disqualification of dissidents from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ruling party ahead of a no-confidence vote that weakens his prospects of retaining power.
With parliament set on Friday to take up the motion filed this month by opposition parties, the nuclear-armed nation faces constitutional and administrative crises that threaten political turmoil.
Speaking after filing a petition to the Supreme Court, Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan told reporters the government had asked it to advise why lawmakers who ditch their party and switch sides cannot be disqualified for life.
“The basic questions … include will the dissident MPs be disqualified for life, …. what would be the significance of the votes polled by those MPs and will the vote of these MPs be counted or not,” Khan said.
The opposition seeks to oust the prime minister because it blames him for mismanaging the economy and governance.
Pakistan’s law on floor-crossing provides that MPs who defect could lose their seats if they then vote against their party, but Khan’s government aims to find out whether that also applies before they cast their votes.
Several of Khan’s lawmakers have withdrawn their support, stoking more uncertainty over whether the former cricket star can hang on to power, following warnings from his coalition partners that they could join the opposition.
The loss of dissident lawmakers has left Khan with over dozen seats less than the minimum of 172 needed for a majority.
The opposition jointly commands 163 seats in the lower house, but could build a majority if most of the defectors effectively join its ranks via the no-confidence vote.
Khan has appealed to the dissidents to return to the party, promising forgiveness.
The opposition and political analysts also say Khan has serious differences with Pakistan’s powerful military, whose support is critical for any party to secure power in the way his upstart party did four years ago.
Khan and the military deny the accusation.
(Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)