ISLAMABAD: Opposition leaders Shehbaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Monday slammed the National Assembly speaker for violating the constitutional provision requiring him to convene a meeting of the Lower House within 14 days after receiving a requisition for a session to table a no-trust motion against the prime minister.
Talking to reporters outside the Supreme Court, flanked by Balochistan National Party (BNP) chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal, the NA opposition leader claimed Speaker Asad Qaiser had deliberately violated Article 54(3) of the Constitution using the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting as an excuse.
“He could have called the session earlier without waiting for the constitutional deadline to lapse,” he remarked. The speaker had, in fact, tried to trap the opposition by prodding it to take a stance against the OIC conference, he maintained.
The PML-N leader hoped the government will stand by the statement of the attorney general made earlier in the apex court. “The foreign ministers of Muslim countries are our brothers and will be warmly welcomed,” he remarked, adding the Pakistan Democratic Movement had postponed its long march because of the OIC meeting.
Babar Awan terms Qaiser’s decision in line with law; Maryam says fresh mandate only solution to resolve challenges
Speaking on the occasion, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman said the government was violating the Constitution and trying to evade the no-confidence motion. He advised Speaker Asad Qaiser to follow the Constitution and consult his lawyers before taking any action that might entail his trial under Article 6 of the Constitution (for high treason).
He said the government and the speaker had practically demonstrated that they could flout the Constitution. But he hoped the apex court would not take a political stance and stand by the Constitution, law and democracy.
PML-N Senator Azam Nazir Tarar, on the occasion, said the attorney general had assured during the proceedings that no MNA would be stopped from going to the Parliament House or barred from voting on the no-trust motion. He said the court had observed that Article 95 and Rule 37 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of the Business in the National Assembly were very clear, and advised the speaker not to deviate from them.
Meanwhile, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan defended the speaker’s decision to summon the session on March 25, which he said was in line with the Constitution.
Talking to reporters here, Mr Awan referred to Article 254 of the Constitution according to which when anything is required to be done within a particular period but is not, the carrying out of that act or thing does not become invalid or ineffective just because it was not done within the prescribed period.
On the other hand, PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz said a fresh mandate was the only solution to resolving the challenges facing the country.
Her remarks dispelled the impression that in case the no-confidence motion was successful, the incoming government would be a transitory, makeshift arrangement only.
Talking to the media after appearing in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in connection with her appeal against her conviction in the Avenfield apartments reference, Maryam said the opposition alliance may form a coalition government, but in order to bring the country out of the current fragile environment, sustainable development could only be achieved through early elections.
She said former premier Nawaz Sharif had, in a recent meeting of the PDM, suggested bringing all the forces into the mainstream to counter the political polarisation that had widened during the PTI regime.
She further said it was the desire of every Pakistani that the state institutions remained neutral, and rejected the PTI’s allegations that the no-confidence motion was linked to any internal or external conspiracy.
“He (PM Khan) knows that his party has been ruined. PTI MPAs and MNAs are worried about their political future as they have already lost the upcoming elections,” she said, adding “the game is over for Imran Khan”.
She laughed out at the government’s claims of assembling a million people in Islamabad for its public gathering, questioning “when they cannot retain 10 lawmakers how can they gather one million people”.
Ms Nawaz criticised PM Khan for using foul language against the opposition leaders and advised parental guidance for children when he appeared on television. She also requested the Supreme Court to restrain the PTI from flouting the constitutional provisions regarding voting on the no-confidence motion, and warned the ruling party of consequences for violating the law.
An IHC division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani had resumed hearing of the said appeal on Monday.
However, since the newly appointed lead prosecutor of the National Accountability Bureau Imtiaz Siddiqui was not well-versed with the facts of the case, the bench advised him to get a thorough briefing from the deputy prosecutor general, who was the lead prosecutor in the accountability court and had appeared as prosecutor since the appeal was filed in August 2018.
Further hearing in the matter was adjourned till May 12.
Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2022