China asks all parties in Pakistan to stay united as Imran Khan government set to fall

Khan on Wednesday effectively lost majority in Parliament after Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), a key partner of the ruling coalition, joined the ranks of the Opposition.
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan attends a military parade to mark Pakistan National Day, in Islamabad, Pakistan. (Photo | AP)
Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan attends a military parade to mark Pakistan National Day, in Islamabad, Pakistan. (Photo | AP)

BEIJING: China, Pakistan's all-weather ally on Thursday reacted guardedly to the potential defeat of Prime Minister Imran Khan's government in Parliament, urging all political parties in the country to stay united in the interest of stability and development.

"China is committed to non-interference policy," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here while replying to a question about whether Beijing is concerned that any change of leadership in Pakistan could impact its close strategic ties with Pakistan.

"As an all-weather strategic cooperative partner, friendly neighbour of Pakistan, China sincerely hopes that all parties in Pakistan will stay united and uphold the major interest of development and stability," Wang Wenbin added.

Pakistan's embattled Prime Minister Khan on Wednesday effectively lost majority in Parliament after Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), a key partner of the ruling coalition, joined the ranks of the Opposition, which had tabled a no-confidence motion against his government in the National Assembly.

Khan has been claiming that the Opposition's no-confidence motion against him was the result of a "foreign conspiracy" because of his external policy and funds were being channelled from abroad to oust him from power.

As political crisis gripped Pakistan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told visiting Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a close confidant of Prime Minister Khan that Beijing has agreed to rollover USD 4.2 billion Pakistan debt due to be paid this week.

Qureshi is currently visiting China to attend the Neighbourhood Countries Foreign Ministers conference on Afghanistan.

"I am immensely happy to share that the Chinese FM has given a nod of approval on the rollover of commercial loan as well," Qureshi was quoted as saying by Pakistan daily Dawn.

The USD 4.2 billion debt, which was maturing this week, has been rolled over providing major financial relief to Pakistan, the daily reported.

Observers here say that China may not be unduly concerned about the fall of Imran Khan's government as Beijing sees the Pakistan military as the cornerstone of its "ironclad" ties with Islamabad.

Also Beijing initially viewed Prime Minister Khan with reservations as he had criticised the USD 60 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the run up to elections.

The current political crisis leading up to Khan losing majority support in the Parliament erupted just after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit on March 21.

Besides holding talks with Khan during his Pakistan visit, Wang had travelled to Rawalpindi the headquarters of the Pakistan Army where he held lengthy talks with its chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa during which he praised the Pakistan military's role in nurturing close ties.

"Pakistani military has played the role of a stabiliser and ballast stone in building a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era," Wang told Gen. Bajwa during the meeting, according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry press release.

China appreciates the positive efforts and important contributions made by the Pakistani military over the years to consolidate and enhance the all-weather strategic cooperative partnership between China and Pakistan, ensure the safe and smooth development of the CPEC and safeguard the security of the Chinese institutions and personnel in Pakistan, Wang said apparently referring to the recurring attacks on thousands of Chinese workers engaged in CPEC projects.

On Thursday, Chinese Defence Ministry Spokesman Senior Colonel Wu Qian told a media briefing here that the military-to-military relations, serving as the mainstay of the China-Pakistan friendship, have played an important role in the development of bilateral relations for a long time.

Commenting on the reports that the Pakistani Air Force recently held a ceremony for receiving the Chinese J-10CE fighter jets, Wu emphasised that China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners, true friends and iron brothers that share weal and woe.

Wu added that the two militaries have achieved fruitful results in fields such as high-level visits, joint training and exercises, anti-epidemic cooperation and equipment technology, constantly enriching the connotation of bilateral strategic cooperation.

Imran Khan on Thursday summoned a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), the highest forum for discussion on security issues, a day after he effectively lost majority in Parliament after a key partner of the ruling coalition joined the ranks of the Opposition which had tabled a no-confidence motion against his government.

The NSC meeting will be held at the Prime Minister's House, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry tweeted.

The NSC is chaired by the Prime Minister and attended by services chiefs, key ministers, national security adviser and top intelligence officials.

Prime Minister Khan will also address the nation this evening, Chaudhry said in another tweet.

Separately, Senator Faisal Javed Khan, a confidante of Prime Minister Khan, also tweeted to confirm the address and said that the exact time of the speech would be shared later.

The development comes a day after the premier shared a letter - purportedly showing evidence of a "foreign conspiracy" to oust his government - with his cabinet members in a hurriedly called meeting, which was not attended by PTI's two major allies - Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) - despite being invited.

Khan also called a select group of TV anchors and informed them that "the language of the letter was threatening and arrogant" and that Pakistan would face dire consequences if the no-confidence motion failed.

However, the premier did not show the letter to the media, the Dawn newspaper reported.

The lower House of Pakistan's Parliament is scheduled to meet on Thursday for a debate on the no-confidence motion tabled by the joint Opposition against Khan to topple his government.

The NSC meeting coincides with the National Assembly session to debate the no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, the letter was apparently losing steam as it was written by none other than a Pakistani envoy and is based on a meeting of embassy officials with the officials of the host country, who expressed displeasure at the foreign policy of Pakistan about the ongoing Ukraine war.

Following the pressure by the Opposition, the government has also indicated to brief a parliament body on security about the letter.

"If the parliamentary leaders from the government and the opposition side agree, the issue of the sensitive letter can be discussed at an in-camera meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security," Asad Qaisar, Speaker of the National Assembly tweeted.

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