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Pakistani Opposition Leader Sees Government Crumbling Amid Ruling Party Rift

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of the Islamic Jamiat Ulema-e Islam party and leader of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of the Islamic Jamiat Ulema-e Islam party and leader of the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

The leader of a major opposition alliance in Pakistan says the administration of Prime Minister Imran Khan has lost the right to rule after a split in his ruling Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (PTI) political party.

“The PTI or Imran Khan lacks a majority in the National Assembly,” Maulana Fazlur Rehman, leader of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), told Radio Mashaal after dozens of PTI lawmakers loyal to renegade PTI leader Jahangir Khan Tareen launched separate parliamentary groups in the National Assembly or the lower house of the federal parliament and in the provincial assembly of the eastern province of Punjab.

“He [Khan] does not enjoy a majority in the assembly now, so there are no legal or moral grounds left for his government to continue in office,” said Rehman, an Islamist cleric and leader of the conservative Jamiat Ulma-e Islam (JUI) party.

The split within the PTI could revive the PDM’s dwindling prospects after the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Awami National Party (ANP) left the nine-party alliance. In March, the two major secular parties backed out amid disagreements over whether alliance members should resign from the parliament to force Khan’s administration into new elections.

“We have all the options open,” he said. “We will hold rallies; we will protest,” he added. “The option of resignations is also there.” Leaders of the PDM are scheduled to meet on May 21 to chart their future course.

Rehman says he expects the alliance to oppose the adoption of the country’s budget next month. “The opposition is not ready at any cost to be a part of the budget -- the reason being the current state of the country’s economy, which is in doldrums because of them [the government],” he said.

Khan’s administration will need to show a majority in the National Assembly to adopt the budget for the next fiscal year. In March, he won a narrow vote of confidence when he secured 178 votes -- only six more than the minimum 172 needed in the 342-member assembly.

Rehman, however, is not bullish on the PDM’s reunification. “As the head of the Pakistan Democratic Movement, I would like to say that the reports of PPP and ANP rejoining the alliance are only rumors and nothing else,” he said. With a lack of unity in their own ranks, it is unlikely the opposition parties will be able to exploit the rift in the ruling party.

The PDM emerged in September as its leaders made tall claims of struggling to restore genuine democracy in Pakistan by forcing the country’s powerful military out of politics. But it lost steam after a series of protests in major cities where alliance leaders accused powerful army generals of rigging the 2018 elections in the PTI’s favor. The party and the Pakistani military both deny rigging the elections. A Pakistani military spokesman has repeatedly stated they are not involved in partisan politics or political manipulation.

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