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Khurshid Shah Leader of Opposition

ISLAMABAD, June 7: National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq notified Syed Khurshid Shah of the PPP on Friday as the Leader of Opposition in the house.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Shah confirmed his notification as new Leader of Opposition, saying the assembly secretariat through a telephone call had formally conveyed to him the speaker’s decision.

Soon after the election of the prime minister on Wednesday, the speaker following rule number 39 of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007, had set Friday as the last date and asked members sitting on opposition benches to submit names for the position.

According to sources, neither the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) nor the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the other two main parties sitting on opposition benches, submitted any name for the position.

Hence the speaker declared Mr Shah, the only applicant for the position, as Leader of Opposition.

The PTI information secretary, Dr Shireen Mazari, told Dawn that her party did not apply for the position because of the absence of its chief, Imran Khan.

Ideally speaking, the speaker should have waited until Mr Khan took oath as a member of the house, she added.

Second, she conceded, the only chance for the PTI to stake claim to the position of opposition leader was by forming an alliance with the MQM, which at the moment seemed not possible for the party.

On opposition benches in the NA, the PPP leads with 42 members followed by the PTI with 29 and the MQM 23.

Ms Mazari, who has been elected to the house on reserved seats for women, said since the PTI had taken a strong stand against the MQM in Karachi, the two parties couldn’t join hands even on opposition benches.

The PTI chairman had held MQM chief Altaf Hussain responsible for the murder of his party’s senior vice president in Sindh, Zahra Shahid Hussain, who was shot dead in Karachi on May 18.

A staff member of the National Assembly clarified that any member of the house sitting on opposition benches can lay claim to the leader of opposition slot if he/she has support of the majority on opposition benches.

Unlike for the election of the leader of the house (prime minister), the leader of opposition can be replaced any time just by moving a simple application carrying signatures of majority of the members in support of the applicant. The speaker is bound to declare the applicant enjoying majority on opposition benches.

According to rule 39, after the general election and at any time thereafter the speaker shall declare leader of the opposition as early as possible after the ascertainment of the leader of the house. After the ascertainment of the leader of the house, the speaker shall inform the members about the date, time and place for submission of a name for the leader of the opposition under their signatures.

The speaker shall declare a member as leader of the opposition having the greatest numerical strength after verification of members’ signatures.

JOINT SITTING: President Asif Ali Zardari has summoned a joint session of parliament in the Parliament House on Monday at 4.30pm in exercise of powers conferred by clause (1) of Article 54 read with clauses (1) and (3) of Article 56 of the constitution.

It is expected that the president will address the joint sitting.

The National Assembly secretariat will issue special invitations for the sitting to all the chief ministers, services chiefs, governors and diplomats.

If the PML-N government invites President Zardari to address the joint sitting, it will be recorded in history as a unique parliamentary occasion: a president will address the parliament for sixth consecutive time during his five-year stint.