Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday secured a vote of confidence from the National Assembly, with 180 lawmakers expressing "full confidence" in his leadership, in a surprise development amidst an increasing confrontation between the government and the top judiciary.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, tabled a resolution in the lower house, stating that the National Assembly of Pakistan "reposes its full confidence in the leadership of" Prime Minister Sharif.
The resolution was supported by 180 lawmakers in the 342-member National Assembly. When Sharif was elected as the prime minister in April last year, he had secured the support of 174 lawmakers.
"Consequently, Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has obtained the vote of confidence from the National Assembly and commands the confidence of the majority of the members of the National Assembly as prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan," Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf announced, amid thumping of desks by lawmakers.
Later, Prime Minister Sharif addressed the House and thanked the lawmakers for reposing confidence in him.
On Monday, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb rejected reports that Prime Minister Sharif would seek a vote of confidence from Parliament in the middle of a tussle with the top judiciary.
Marriyum took to Twitter to dispel the impression of the vulnerability of the premier and the need to seek a vote to show that he enjoyed the trust of the majority.
She said that no consultation had taken place on the topic, adding that there was no need for it.
Her tweet followed after several media channels reported that Prime Minister Sharif had decided to go to the Parliament and seek a fresh mandate.
The speculation came after the National Assembly rejected a money bill tabled by the government for providing funds to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for holding polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The rejection echoed in the Supreme Court which observed on April 19 while hearing a plea that the premier always must hold the majority in the National Assembly.
The court already ordered an election in the Punjab province on May 14 but the government is dragging its foot to postpone the poll citing economic constraints and security reasons.
Former Prime Minister Imran Khan has been pushing for snap elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the provinces where his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party ruled till recently.
The PTI dissolved the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies on January 14 and 18, respectively, in a bid to force the ruling coalition in Islamabad to hold early general elections in the country.
Parliament and the judiciary have also locked horns over the holding of elections in the two provinces, as the cash-strapped government has refused to authorise the funds to meet the expenditures amidst the economic crisis facing the country.
The PTI is determined to press for polls in the provincial legislatures, but the government maintains its stance on simultaneous elections across the country.
The National Assembly will complete its five-year term in August this year. According to the Constitution, elections shall be held within 90 days after the dissolution of the lower house. This means that the election must be held by mid-October. The last general election was held in July 2018.