ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Friday for the third time put off the joint sitting of parliament scheduled to be held on Sept 22 (Thursday) without giving any reason for another one month despite the fact that the mandatory address of President Dr Arif Alvi has already become due.
The joint sitting of the two houses of parliament will now be held on Oct 20, according to an official announcement of the National Assembly Secretariat.
The official notification in this regard said the speaker had delayed the joint sitting exercising his “powers conferred by proviso to Rule 4 of the Parliament (Joint Sittings) Rules 1973”.
The said rule states: “The speaker shall determine when a joint sitting shall be adjourned sine die or to a particular day, or to an hour of the same day, provided that the speaker may, if he thinks fit, call a joint sitting before the date or time to which it has been adjourned or at any time after the joint sitting has been adjourned sine die.”
President Dr Arif Alvi’s mandatory address has already become due
The last joint sitting of the parliament was held on June 9 in which the government had managed to get passed “controversial” electoral reforms and the accountability laws after President Alvi refused to give his assent to both laws despite their passage by the National Assembly and Senate.
The bills were forwarded to the president for his assent after their passage from the upper and lower houses, but President Alvi sent them back to parliament for reconsideration.
The bills were presented to the president again, but he refused to sign them. Subsequently, the bills became an act of parliament after 10 days as per Article 75 of the Constitution.
After accomplishing the task, instead of proroguing the joint sitting, the speaker had announced adjournment till July 20 as the government had intended to get some more bills passed in the joint sitting which had lapsed after their passage from one house of parliament.
However, on July 18, the speaker put off the joint sitting till Aug 22 giving no reason for his act.
The present National Assembly, which has come into existence as a result of the July 25, 2018 general elections, has already entered its last parliamentary year after completing its four-year term and the mandatory address of the president to the joint sitting of parliament has already become due with the start of the final parliamentary year of the National Assembly on Aug 14.
The Article 56(3) of the Constitution states that “at the commencement of the first session after each general election to the National Assembly and at the commencement of the first session of each year, the president shall address both houses assembled together and inform the Majlis-i-Shoora (parliament) of the causes of its summons”.
President Alvi had in the past remained a target of severe criticism by the previous opposition parties, now sitting in the government, for allegedly undermining parliament by issuing a record number of ordinances under the PTI government.
The opposition had also threatened to move a resolution for his impeachment when the Supreme Court overturned his notifications regarding the appointment of the members of the Election Commission of Pakistan and the extension in the tenure of Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.
President Alvi had refused to administer the oath to Shehbaz Sharif after his election as the country’s prime minister in April this year following the ouster of Imran Khan from the office through a vote of no confidence.
President Alvi came under criticism again when he had refused to give his assent to the election reforms and NAB amendment bills despite their passage from the National Assembly and Senate.
Mr Alvi has already addressed parliament four times since assuming office in Sept 2018 when his party, the PTI, was ruling the country. He always showered praise on the PTI.
Parliamentary experts say that this time, the president will be confronted with a different situation as he will be required to review the performance of two different governments.
Besides reviewing the eight-month performance of the former ruling PTI, the president will also have to analyse the five-month rule of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government comprising his political rivals.
Last year, Dr Alvi addressed the joint sitting of the two houses of parliament on Sept 13 amid strong protests by the then opposition parties.
“Shout but accept the reality that the country is passing through the path of industrial growth,” the president had said while praising the PTI government and responding to the opposition’s protest and shouting.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2022