ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued notices to the National Assembly speaker, its secretary and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday on a petition filed by the PTI against “piecemeal” acceptance of its lawmakers’ resignations.

The PTI has argued that the resignations of all its 123 MNAs had been accepted months ago and the present National Assembly speaker had no “lawful authority or jurisdiction” to verify the resignations as former deputy speaker Qasim Suri had already approved them.

All PTI lawmakers, except dissidents, resigned en masse on April 11, two days after former prime minister Imran Khan was ousted from the top office after losing a confidence motion in parliament.

Later that month, Mr Ashraf decided to verify the resignations of the 123 PTI lawmakers by calling them individually or in small groups, but they couldn’t show up after party chief Imran Khan barred them from appearing before the speaker.

On July 27, National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf accepted the resignations of only 11 PTI lawmakers, including Dr Shireen Mazari, Ali Muhammad Khan and Farrukh Habib.

During the hearing on Thursday, PTI’s counsel Faisal Chaudhry submitted the copy of Mr Suri’s approval of resignations to the IHC acting chief justice.

The court issued notices to the National Assembly speaker, its secretary and the ECP, and set the next hearing for Aug 16.

The PTI petition said 123 MNAs gave their resignations on April 11 after the PTI’s parliamentary party meeting presided over by Mr Khan in a committee room at Parliament House. However, the present speaker withheld these resignations and did not forward them to the ECP on the pretext of “so-called verification”, it said.

“Now after the lapse of around three and a half months, the National Assembly speaker has approved resignation of only 11 MNAs of the PTI” and forwarded them to the election commission, which had de-notified the lawmakers, it said.

The party requested the court to direct the speaker to accept all resignations at once. Similarly, ECP should also be directed to denotify all PTI lawmakers en masse.

Raja Riaz’s removal

Also on Thursday, the Lahore High Court directed the NA speaker to take a decision within 30 days on an application requesting the removal of Leader of the Opposition Raja Riaz.

Justice Muzamil Akhtar Shabbir, while taking up the case, wondered how the system would function if members of the assembly sat outside parliament and how one could oppose while sitting outside parliament.

He observed that parliament would have to conduct the election for the post opposition leader while completing the procedure in accordance with the law, but there was no other candidate in running, except Raja Riaz.

When the judge asked what the Constitution said when there was only one candidate before the NA speaker, the additional attorney general replied that the speaker fixed a day for the nomination of the NA opposition leader immediately after the contest for the premier and that the speaker nominated Raja Riaz through all due processes.

The court remarked that the petitioner was not a member of parliament and asked whether an ordinary citizen could file a complaint or not.

During the proceedings, petitioner Munir Ahmed’s counsel Advocate Azhar Siddique informed the court that an application had been submitted earlier to speaker for removal of the opposition leader, but no action was taken. Raja Riaz was holding this position without the consent of his party (i.e. PTI), he argued.

He claimed that the nomination of Raja Riaz as opposition leader was in “sheer violation” of rules 39, 43 and others of the ‘Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007 (“the Rules”)’.

Advocate Azhar argued that all resignations recently presented in the National Assembly were not accepted and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had not de-notified them.

Referring to a case, he said the IHC chief justice had held: “It is an admitted position that Dr Shireen Mazari continues to enjoy the status of a member of the Majlis-i-Shoora (parliament). She has not been de-notified by the Election Commission of Pakistan nor has the worthy Speaker of the National Assembly accepted her resignation in accordance with the principles and law highlighted by a division bench of that court.”

The counsel contended that the order clearly stated that the resignations had not been accepted by the NA speaker nor had the ECP de-notified the said members.

“If the said practice was not completed in accordance with procedure, then how is the respondent, Raja Riaz, appointed as the opposition leader?” he asked.

The court directed the NA speaker to decide the application seeking removal of the opposition leader within 30 days and adjourned the hearing till next date.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2022

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