ISLAMABAD: The coalition government is considering asking National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to accept the resignations of those PTI MNAs, including party chairman Imran Khan and vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who have publicly announced resigning from their seats, Dawn has learnt through sources.
The decision has been made after the PTI leadership directed party lawmakers not to appear before the speaker, who is set to start verifying the resignations of 131 PTI lawmakers from Monday (today).
Besides, the government has put off a joint sitting of parliament until June 9, apparently to counter President Dr Arif Alvi’s refusal to give his assent to two crucial bills.
All PTI MNAs resigned en masse after their government’s ouster in April. However, the speaker wanted them to appear in person to confirm the “voluntary character and genuineness” of their resignation letters.
A source in the National Assembly Secretariat told Dawn on Sunday the speaker was likely to accept the resignations of Imran Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, as Mr Khan had publicly and Mr Qureshi on the floor of the National Assembly had confirmed their resignations.
The source said the government did not want to accept all resignations in one go to avoid burdening the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) with several by-elections on vacant seats.
Last month, the speaker summoned PTI legislators on June 6. Given that he wanted 30 members to appear before him daily, the exercise is likely to be completed in four to five days.
However, PTI chairman Imran Khan had already announced that no MNA of his party would appear before the speaker in this regard.
The source said more than two dozen PTI MNAs had contacted the speaker, asking him not to accept their resignations.
Those 30 legislators who had been summoned for personnel appearance on June 6 are Dr Haider Ali Khan (NA-2), Saleem Rehamn (NA-3), Murad Saeed (NA-4), Sahibzada Sibghatullah (NA-5), Mehbood Shah (NA-6), Muhammad Bashir Khan (NA-7), Junaid Akbar (NA-8), Sher Akbar Khan (NA-9), Prince Muhammad Nawaz Allai (NA-12), Ali Khan Jadoon (NA-16), Omar Ayub Khan (NA-17), Asad Qaiser (NA-18), Engr Usman Khan Tarakal (NA-19), Mujahid Ali (NA-20), All Muhammad Khan (NA-22), Malik Anwar Taj (NA-23), Fazal Muhammad Khan (NA-24), Pervez Khattak (NA-25), Imran Khattak (NA-26), Arbab Amir Ayub (NA-28), Nasir Khan Musa Zai (NA-29), Sher Ali Arbab (NA-30), Shaukat Ali (NA-31), Shehryar Afridi (NA-32), Shahid Ahmad (NA-34), Ali Amin Khan (NA-38), Muhammad Yaqoob Sheikh (NA-39), Gul Dad Khan (NA-40), Gul Zafar Khan (NA-41) and Sajid Khan (NA-42).
All PTI lawmakers, except party dissidents, resigned from the National Assembly en masse on April 11 before the scheduled voting began for electing a new prime minister.
According to the National Assembly spokesperson, letters had been dispatched to the MNAs to inform them that they had to appear separately before the speaker to endorse that they had given resignation according to their will without any pressure.
The source said earlier that the joint sitting of the two houses of the parliament was to be held on June 7, but the government had put it off until June 9 as it was expecting President Alvi’s refusal to assent to the crucial bills regarding the amendments to National Accountability Ordinance and election laws.
“Now the two bills will be passed by the joint sitting and will become law automatically,” the source said, adding that if the bills were once refused by the president but then passed by the joint sitting, they did not need the president’s assent to become law.
In a bid to create another hurdle for the coalition government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, President Alvi refused to give his assent on Saturday to the bills recently passed by the two houses of parliament. He returned the two pieces of legislation to the government for “consideration and detailed deliberations” by parliament and its committees.
The president, who belongs to the former ruling party PTI, has returned the two crucial bills using his powers under Article 75(1) of the Constitution, according to an official handout issued by President Office.
Article 75(1) states: “When a bill is presented to the president for assent, the president shall, within [ten] days (a) assent to the bill; or (b) in the case of a bill other than a money bill, return the bill to the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) with a message requesting that the bill or any specified provision thereof, be reconsidered and that any amendment specified in the message be considered.”
Sources said the government would make all-out efforts to get the two bills passed from parliament before presenting the federal budget in the National Assembly on June 10, as it could not bring any legislation during the budget session.
The coalition government managed to get the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2022 and National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill 2021 passed from the National Assembly and the Senate on May 26 and May 28, respectively.
Through the election bill, the government aims to reverse controversial changes made by the previous PTI government in the 2017 law to introduce i-voting by overseas Pakistanis and the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in the next general elections.
The bill seeking amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 seeks to clip vast powers of the National Accountability Bureau.
In the National Assembly, the government faced no problem in getting the two bills passed but witnessed a strong opposition in the upper house, where PTI senators lodged a noisy protest over the move to pass the bills without referring them to the house committees.
While returning the two bills to parliament, President Alvi has come out with detailed reasoning, besides alleging that the government had violated Article 46 of the Constitution by not informing him about the legislative proposals before bringing them to parliament. He quoted Article 46 that “the prime minister shall keep the president informed… on all legislative proposals the federal government intends to bring before the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)”.
The president also defended the previous PTI government’s policy of introducing EVMs in the elections.
Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2022