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ISLAMABAD: A member of the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), a breakaway faction of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), has been holding a National Assembly seat and drawing salary as an MNA, despite quitting his former party about eight months ago.

The official website of the National Assembly shows Syed Asif Hasnain as a member of the MQM, elected from NA-255 (Karachi-XVII), despite the fact that Mr Hasnain joined Mustafa Kamal’s PSP and announced his decision at a news conference on Aug 28 last year.

Mr Hasnain told Dawn that he had faxed his resignation to National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq on Sept 5, but so far he had not received any call or notice from the National Assembly Secretariat asking him to personally appear before the speaker for verification of his resignation, as required under the rules.

Unless an MNA submits their resignation in person, the speaker is bound to verify it from the lawmaker in question, the same technicality that held up Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) members’ resignations during the party’s sit-in in 2014.

Asif Hasnain quit MQM in August 2016, but claims his resignation was not accepted

When asked why he continued to enjoy the perks and privileges of parliamentarians after having resigned, he said that he had only been receiving his salary, but not MNAs’ allowances, in his bank account. However, he claimed that he had not touched the money and that he was ready to pay it back if his resignation was accepted retrospectively.

Mr Hasnain told Dawn the he planned to return to the National Assembly so he could formally announce his decision on the floor of the house, much like erstwhile PTI MNA Makhdoom Javed Hashmi — the veteran politician from Multan — had memorably announced a parting of ways with his party at the height of the PTI’s 2014 sit-in.

However, Mr Hasnain said, PSP chief Mustafa Kamal had not given him permission to do so.

However, MQM parliamentary leader Dr Farooq Sattar criticised Mr Hasnain for continuing to enjoy the status of an MNA despite quitting the party, on whose ticket he had won the seat.

Mr Sattar claimed that the speaker had been asking Mr Hasnain to personally appear before him to verify his resignation, but the MNA had been avoiding it.

The MQM-Pakistan chief said it was Mr Hasnain’s “moral responsibility” to quit the assembly seat even if he had not received any intimation from the assembly.

When reminded that under the Constitution, he was empowered — as the parliamentary head of his party — to write to the speaker and ask for Mr Hasnain to be de-seated over defection, Mr Sattar said that it was not a priority for his party at the moment.

When asked if the MQM did not want the MNA de-seated because it did not want to contest another by-election, Dr Sattar said: “Yes, you can say that we are doing it for our own convenience.”

Under the rules, a member stands disqualified for defecting from his party, or if he remains absent for 40 consecutive sittings without submitting a leave application. However, in both the cases, the party head or any member of the house is required to formally move a reference or a motion against the offending lawmaker.

Mr Hasnain has already missed 70 consecutive sittings of the assembly since Sept 5, 2016 — the date on which he claims to have submitted his resignation.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2017