ISLAMABAD / KARACHI – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will seek a vote of confidence in parliament after the government’s finance minister lost his bid for a Senate seat in Wednesday’s election, the foreign minister said.
Khan’s ruling Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and its political allies are trying to wrest control of the Pakistani Senate from opposition parties in indirect elections of up to 37 seats in the upper house of the 104-member parliament.
Full results are yet to come out, but local media reports suggest that PTI and its allies are gaining support in the Senate, perhaps enough to gain a majority.
However, an election official announced that Khan’s finance minister, Abdul Hafiz Sheikh, had not managed to win the seat he was fighting for.
The losses dealt a significant blow to Khan and the government, as the electoral college in the Sheikh’s case was the lower house of parliament, which elected the country’s prime minister and in 2018 handed over the majority to Khan.
Sheikh also led important talks with international lender IMF aimed at stabilizing the economy. However, he can continue as finance minister, meaning the political damage is largely symbolic at this stage.
“Imran Khan and his party have reached a consensus decision that Imran Khan will take a vote of confidence from parliament,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a news conference.
Information Minister Shibli Faraz told Geo News the move was to show political opponents Khan that he still had confidence in parliament and it was “a sign of a brave person.”
The Senate contest was designed as a measure of confidence in the Khan government, Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, head of the independent research organization PILDAT, told Reuters.
Pakistan financial advisor house Topline Securities said in an advisory note soon after the results of the Sheikh chair were announced that the losses were likely to increase pressure on the ruling party.
Opposition parties, which have united behind a mass protest campaign aimed at overthrowing Khan, are calling for the dissolution of the government and new elections.
If Khan and his allies gain a majority in the Senate by the time the final results are announced, it could help him pass important legislation stalling in the assembly and slow progress on talks with the IMF.