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Pakistan could hold early elections, interior minister says as PM calls mass rally

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Thursday there was a chance of early elections in the country as parliament is expected to vote later this month in a no-confidence move against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Pakistan’s will convene on Friday to start proceedings into the no-confidence motion, which could take seven days to go for voting to decide whether Khan will be removed.

Opposition parties filed the motion on March 8, saying Khan had lost his majority after some 20 of his defected party lawmakers, calling on the prime minister to step down. The opposition accuses Khan of mismanagement of the economy and bad governance.

Before the opposition filed the no-trust request in, several senior opposition leaders had called for Khan to announce early elections, a demand his ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party has repeatedly rejected.

“Pakistan could hold early elections,” Ahmed told reporters in a surprise statement in Islamabad. “Every day, things are getting better,” he added in what was seen as a reference to risks of constitutional, administrative and economic crises in Pakistan over the no-confidence vote.

In a pre-recorded video message to the nation on Thursday, Khan invited Pakistanis to attend a rally in support of his government, scheduled to be held in the capital on March 27.

Khan last week announced he would hold a “1-million” strong rally ahead of the parliamentary no-confidence.

The date for the vote has not yet been set, but Khan’s government and the opposition have both announced rallies in Islamabad ahead of the event.

The prime minister called the opposition a “gang of thieves” and said they had tried to buy the “conscience” of lawmakers, referring to legislators from his party who have openly announced they will vote against Khan and members of allied parties who have publicly spoken against his policies recently.

On Wednesday, Khan told TV he would not resign in the face of the no-confidence motion: “My prediction is that we will win the no-confidence match.” The opposition needs the support of 172 lawmakers in the country’s 342-member National Assembly for the no-trust vote to prevail. The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party has accused the opposition of bribbing its lawmakers to vote against Khan.

The government now hopes it can get defecting lawmakers disqualified through a court ruling, making it difficult for the opposition to secure a simple majority to bring it down.

The opposition says it has the required numbers to win the no-trust vote, though its leaders are still holding meetings with the government’s allied parties to convince them to abandon the coalition.


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