ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi is set to face a hostile opposition during his constitutionally mandated address to the joint sitting of parliament on Thursday at the beginning of the second parliamentary year of the National Assembly under the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government.
Talking to Dawn here on Wednesday, the leaders of two main opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — said they would finalise their strategy for the joint sitting at a meeting of the combined opposition just before the start of the session, but declared that they would definitely use their right of protest over the unconstitutional appointment of two members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by the president and non-issuance of production order for arrested lawmakers.
“It is unlikely that the government will have a smooth sailing during the joint sitting,” said PPP’s Syed Naveed Qamar.
He said that “when we were in government, we always tried to take the opposition on board on thorny issues before such important occasions to ensure smooth proceedings in parliament”. However, he regretted, this government was not interested in running parliament smoothly.
PML-N information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb, when contacted, said this government was in the habit of inviting trouble for itself and this time again, it had done so by making “illegal appointments” in the ECP.
PML-N, PPP to finalise protest strategy at a meeting before the start of joint sitting
Responding to a question about the opposition’s possible plan to disrupt the proceedings of parliament, she said they only wanted to seek a reply from the government over the issue of ECP members’ appointment, adding that it was the right of the opposition to raise in parliament the matter of “serious violation of the Constitution” by the president and the prime minister.
She said that even Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Mohammad Raza had in his order declared the appointment of two ECP members “unconstitutional”.
Ms Aurangzeb said that so far the National Assembly speaker had not issued the production order for the arrested opposition members to allow them to attend the joint sitting. She said it was the right of every member of parliament to attend the joint sitting. She said Leader of the Opposition and PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif was also coming to Islamabad to attend the joint sitting despite the fact that he had been advised by doctors to take rest.
Presently, six opposition members are in the custody of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and other law-enforcement agencies over charges of corruption. The arrested members are Asif Ali Zardari of the PPP, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Khawaja Saad Rafique and Rana Sanaullah Khan of the PML-N and Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, the two independent MNAs from Waziristan.
Similarly, PPP’s Syed Khurshid Shah said that he had proposed to the opposition parties to lodge a strong protest over the “violation of the Constitution” by none other than the president himself.
Mr Shah said that being president of the country, Dr Alvi should not have committed such a blunder by appointing the two ECP members without following the due constitutional process.
He also said that a final decision regarding the opposition’s mode of protest would be taken by opposition lawmakers at a meeting of the opposition parties on Thursday.
Informed sources told Dawn that opposition parties had previously made a plan to prevent the president from delivering his speech in parliament through a noisy protest, but now they had decided to keep their plan secret till the last moment.
The sources said that while discussing the issue of ECP members’ appointment, members of the opposition’s Rahbar Committee had in their meeting on Aug 26 discussed the option of moving an impeachment resolution against the president.
A PPP office-bearer, who was present in the meeting, had said the president could be impeached under Article 47 for violating the Constitution.
Article 47 of the Constitution states: “Notwithstanding anything contained in the Constitution, the President may, in accordance with the provisions of this Article, be removed from office on the ground of physical or mental incapacity or impeached on a charge of violating the Constitution or gross misconduct.”
Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2019