According to the first news coming out, the opposition’s No Confidence vote against Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has failed. According to The News internet site:
Islamabad: The no confidence motion tabled by the opposition against Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Tuesday has not been passed. The National Assembly voted the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz moved by PPPP’s Aitzaz Ahsan. According to Speaker, National Assembly Chaudhry Ameer Hussain, the opposition motion polled 136 votes, less than the 172 needed from the 342-seat National Assembly to oust the prime minister. Aziz rebutted the opposition charges, saying that his government had improved the country’s economy and strengthened the democratic process.
The vote had been expected to fail. It is, however, surprising that 136 members did vote against the government, given earlier statements from the Information Minister that they would not.
Also, as analysts have pointed out, this motion was important not because it had a chance of going through but because it symbolizes larger and more important political dynamics. According to Nasim Zehra, writing in The News (29 August, 2006):
An open vote is expected on the motion which will be taken up for discussion on August 29. This move by the opposition of course poses no immediate threat to the survival of the present government. It does however underscore the severe problems with the current military engineered political set-up. The no-confidence motion is against the prime minister because he is the head of the parliamentary government but it actually targets the military-engineered quasi-democracy. The opposition too realizes fully well that the move will not succeed. But its objective isnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t to remove the government. It is to initiate pressure on the government. The opposition has used the current system to exert pressure in a coordinated, coherent and widely communicated manner. It has used its constitutional prerogative to table the no-confidence motion. Its major corruption charges against the government rest on the Supreme Court of PakistanÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s judgment against the privatisation of the Pakistan Steel Mill. In moving as a united group to table the motion the opposition has demonstrated its ability to forge unity on the crucial common denominator of establishing genuine democratic rule and an end to all military involvement in politics.
In a country where there is urgent need for reformed, rational and rooted but contemporary politics, the bulk of political energy is expended on battling political foes. The deep divide between the Establishment and some of the major political forces like the PPP and even the PML-N is not over ideological and policy differences. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s over absence of fair-play. Conversely PakistanÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s opposition is united over the absence of credible democracy. Not a reform agenda. Clearly until the political battles remain, they will dominate all else in Pakistan. Minor advances notwithstanding, no major reform agenda can succeed without support of popular political forces. With all the post-1999 numbers-based political victories that the present set-up has won, the Establishment has only used it to take Pakistan towards military-engineered quasi-democracy, not towards genuine democracy. The governmentÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s numbers victory on August 29 is only likely to strengthen quasi-democracy. Until the ostracisation of the mainstream political parties ends, the present system will not move any closer to a credible democracy.
I myself am of the view that irrespective of what result you might have wanted, the vote is a good omen for the democratic process. The numbers were not large enough to dislodge the government, but they were significant enough to suggest that there is a real opposition within the system. A credible opposition is a necessary ingredient for democracy and the way to express opposition and engage in discourse should be through debate within the legislative forums.