ISLAMABAD: In an apparent move to delay the election of the National Assembly speaker and using his special powers under the rules, acting Speaker Qasim Suri has changed the schedule of the sitting of the lower house of parliament from April 16 to April 22.
“The National Assembly session, which was scheduled to be held at 4pm on April 16, will now be held at 3pm on April 22. The change in the schedule has been made by the acting speaker under Rule 49(2) of the Rules and Procedure for the Conduct of the Business in the National Assembly 2007,” said an official handout issued by the NA Secretariat on Wednesday.
Earlier in the morning, the NA Secretariat had issued the schedule for the speaker’s election according to which nomination papers were to be submitted by 12 noon on April 15.
The seat of the NA speaker fell vacant after Asad Qaiser tendered his resignation on April 9 before asking PML-N’s Sardar Ayaz Sadiq to take the charge to conduct the prime minister’s election in line with the decision of the Supreme Court.
Soon after the election and maiden speech of Shehbaz Sharif as the prime minister, Mr Suri had all of a sudden returned to the house and adjourned the sitting till April 16 when Mr Sadiq had already announced the name of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to take the floor.
Rule 49(2) titled “Hours of sitting and adjournment” reads as “subject to the other provisions of these rules, the speaker may, (a) adjourn a sitting of the Assembly; and (b) if he thinks fit, call a sitting of the Assembly at a time or date different from that to which it was earlier adjourned and the change shall be intimated to the members through announcement on radio and television”.
The deputy speaker came to the action hours after Mr Sadiq and PPP’s Sherry Rehman accused him of pressurising the NA Secretariat to send the resignations of the PTI legislators to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the process.
With the boycott of the election of the prime minister by the PTI — now in opposition — it is yet to be seen if there will be any candidate from its side.
However, the names of Syed Khursheed Shah, Syed Naveed Qamar and Shazia Marri from Sindh and Raja Pervez Ashraf from Punjab are doing the rounds in PPP circle, with former premier Ashraf leading the race.
Inside sources told Dawn that in view of a tie among the candidates from Sindh, the PPP — which has been given the coveted slot by the nine-party alliance — would offer the position to its Punjab president [Mr Ashraf]. “This also paves the way for nominating a party leader from Sindh for the apex seat of the president,” the source said.
Following the removal of the PTI government, the election of the prime minister was to be held after election of the speaker.
Article 53 (1) states: “After the election of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, the National Assembly shall, to the exclusion of any other business, proceed to elect without debate one of its Muslim members to be the Prime Minister.”
Although former speaker Asad Qaiser had tendered his resignation before the election of the prime minister, the latter’s election under Article 91 (3) was given priority over the speaker’s election in compliance with the Supreme Court verdict.
It may be recalled that the opposition had already submitted a no-confidence resolution against Mr Suri, who is currently the acting speaker, and it is expected that he will tender his resignation before the axe falls on him.
Article 53, clause (7) sub clause (c) states: “He [Speaker/Deputy Speaker] is removed from office by a resolution of the Assembly, of which not less than seven days’ notice has been given and which is passed by the votes of the majority of the total membership of the Assembly.”
Once the assembly elects its speaker the focus will move on to the election of deputy speaker for which Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s Shahida Akhtar Ali and Balochistan National Party’s Agha Hassan Baloch are said to be front runners.
Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2022