Rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) says it fears violence in Pakistan as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government faces a no-confidence vote sought by the opposition.
“Pakistan’s democratic institutions are facing a new threat,” HRW said in a statement on Wednesday, urging the government and the opposition to “deter supporters from violence”.
Pakistan’s opposition seeks to throw Khan out after rallying thousands of people on a campaign that he has mismanaged the economy, governance and foreign policy.
No Pakistani prime minister has ever completed his term in office.
The joint opposition consists of major parties such as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) – of former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto – and has a strength of nearly 163 in the lower house.
It needs a simple majority of 172 to prevail in the no-confidence vote.
The threat of political turmoil in the nuclear-armed nation is growing as the opposition looks to oust the cricketer-turned-politician in a vote that could come as soon as this month after the no-confidence motion was unveiled in parliament last week.
The HRW said government officials responded to the call for a vote by “threatening violence and briefly detaining two members of parliament”.
“The situation risks spiralling into a dangerous confrontation,” it said.
“The government has a responsibility to uphold the constitution and allow for voting without threats or violence on the no-confidence motion.”
Khan ‘in 100 percent danger’
On Tuesday, one of Khan’s key allies said the Pakistani leader is in danger of losing his coalition partners in the no-confidence vote.
“He is in 100 percent danger,” Pervaiz Elahi, head of one of the four parties in Khan’s ruling coalition, told television broadcaster HUM News.
“They all have got a tilt toward opposition,” the veteran politician added in an interview, referring to the four parties, which have a total of 20 seats in the lower house of parliament.
Without them, Khan’s party, which has 155 seats in the lower house, would fall short of the 172 needed to retain power.
“They have the required number … even more than that,” Elahi said about the opposition.
Khan’s ministers say Elahi would not part ways with the government, while other coalition partners have said they were weighing their options.
Elahi, the speaker of the assembly in the largest province of Punjab, has been negotiating with the opposition over whether his party will be part of the next government if Khan falls.
The opposition and political analysts say Khan has fallen out with Pakistan’s powerful military whose support they see as critical for any political party to attain power in the way the former cricket star’s upstart party did four years ago.
Khan and the military deny the claim.
Amid the numbers game, both sides have called for sit-in protest rallies outside parliament in the capital Islamabad ahead of the voting, which analysts say has strengthened the prospect of clashes and violence.