IHC issues notices to NA speaker, ECP on PTI plea against ‘piece-meal’ acceptance of MNAs' resignations

Published August 4, 2022
<p>National Assembly speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja. — Photo courtesy: DawnNewsTV</p>

National Assembly speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja. — Photo courtesy: DawnNewsTV

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday issued notices to National Assembly speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), and others on a petition filed by the PTI against the acceptance of resignations of its lawmakers in the parliament in "piecemeal".

All the PTI lawmakers had resigned en masse on April 11, two days after former prime minister Imran Khan was ousted from the top office after the no-confidence motion moved by the joint opposition in the parliament against him succeeded.

In April, Ashraf decided to verify the resignations of the 123 PTI lawmakers, by calling them individually or in small groups as some two dozen MNAs belonging to the formerly ruling party approached him seeking a meeting to clarify their stance, according to a report in Dawn.

Sources in the NA Secretariat had confirmed that a majority of the resignations submitted by the PTI MNAs were not handwritten and had a similar text printed on the PTI’s letterhead. They said the secretariat staff also had doubts over the signatures of some members as these were not matching with those on the assembly’s roll.

According to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007, a member may "by writing under his hand addressed to the speaker resign his seat".

In 2020, when PTI was in power, former minister Sheikh Rashid had said that printed resignations held no legal value when PDM was threatening en masse resignations.

On July 27, the NA speaker accepted the resignations of 11 lawmakers of the party.

Ali Muhammad Khan, Fazal Muhammad Khan, Shaukat Ali, Fakhar Zaman Khan, Farrukh Habib, Jamil Ahmed Khan, Muhammad Akram Cheema, Abdul Shakoor Shad, Dr Shireen Mazari, Shandana Gulzar Khan and Ijaz Ahmed Shah are the MNAs who have been denotified from their seats.

Subsequently, the party approached IHC earlier this week seeking approval for all the PTI’s MNAs' resignations and their denotification.

During the hearing today, PTI lawyer Faisal Chaudhry said that his counsel had submitted the authority letter of all the 123 MNAs in court after which they too had become respondents in the case.

He contended that on April 11, then deputy speaker Qasim Suri had accepted the resignations of all the PTI parliamentarians.

Chaudhry then submitted Suri's order, dated April 13, in court which stated: "I have received the resignations of 125 members of National Assembly belonging to the PTI as earlier announced in the house by Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, deputy parliamentary leader, PTI, on April 11, 2022.

"I have perused all the resignations and reached the conclusion that all of them except the resignation of Prince Muhammad Nawaz Allai, NA-12 and Jawaid Hussain, NA-47, are voluntary and genuine," it said.

The order added that Suri had accepted these resignations and ordered to notify the same in the gazette.

Chaudhry also submitted the list of all the 123 PTI MNAs in court.

After listening to his arguments, Justice Aamer Farooq issued notices to Ashraf, ECP, and the secretary Cabinet Division.

He also instructed the NA secretary to produce all the records in court through an authorized officer and adjourned the hearing till August 16.

PTI's petition

The petition filed on Monday, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, stated that after the ‘regime change operation’, PTI leadership decided to tender resignation from the National Assembly since it was seeking a “fresh mandate” from the people of Pakistan.

It said that pursuant to the decision of a meeting of the Parliamentary Party held in the Parliament House on April 11, 123 MNAs tendered resignations which were accepted by the deputy speaker.

However, the newly-elected Speaker NA Raja Pervaiz Ashraf withheld these resignations and did not forward them to the ECP on the pretext of “so-called verification of the resignation”.

“Now after the lapse of around three and a half months, NA Speaker approved resignations of only 11 MNAs of the PTI” and forwarded them to the ECP which has denotified the lawmakers, said the petition.

“The impugned act of the so called verification of resignation of PTI MNAs conducted by the present speaker of the National Assembly and his purported approval of the resignations and forwarding the same to the ECP in a piecemeal manner, despite the fact that all the 123 resignations of the PTI MNA s had already been accepted on April 11 by the then speaker, as well as the impugned act of the ECP to denotify the PTI Members in the piecemeal manner, are unsustainable,” the petition added.

It requested the court to direct the Speaker NA to accord approval to all the PTI’s MNAs resignations.

The petition further requested that the direction be given to the ECP to de-notify these members en masse.

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