National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said on Sunday he would not be accepting the resignations of any lawmakers from the PTI, which announced mass resignations from the lower house of parliament in April, unless he was sure they weren’t tendered under any pressure.
“The law dictates that even if a member says in my presence they want to resign but I have information that they are under pressure, I should not accept their resignation,” he explained while speaking to the media in Lahore when asked about him approving the resignations of only select few PTI lawmakers.
Ashraf alleged that even after the announcement of mass resignations, PTI lawmakers continued to occupy parliament lodges and avail perks given to MNAs. “And then they also send me messages not to accept their resignations. In this scenario […] I will not de-seat any member until I am satisfied” that they were not resigning under pressure, he said.
The speaker also clarified that he had accepted the resignations of those lawmakers who had issued statements in the media and on social media that they had vacated their seats willingly.
The PTI, which saw the ouster of its chief Imran Khan as the premier through a no-confidence vote in April, had announced it was resigning en masse from the NA just hours before then-opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif was to take oath as the country’s new chief executive.
Then-NA deputy speaker Qasim Suri, in the capacity of the house’ acting speaker, had subsequently accepted the resignations of 123 PTI MNAs. However, the incumbent speaker later decided to verify the resignations and eventually accepted the resignations of just 11 lawmakers on July 27.
The PTI had first challenged the move in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on August 1, contesting that it was “unsustainable”. The IHC, however, had dismissed the petition on September 6 and declared that the acceptance of PTI lawmakers’ resignations by Suri was unconstitutional.
The party then approached the SC, praying it to set aside the IHC order, terming it “vague, cursory and against the law”. A decision on the PTI’s plea in the apex court is still pending.
Meanwhile, de-seated PTI lawmakers claimed again approached the IHC in October, pleading that the NA speaker had treated their “en masse letters” as a resignation and recommended their de-notification to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
In a departure from their previous demand that their resignations be accepted forthwith, they moved the high court against the approval of their ‘resignations’ by the NA speaker and ECP.
Addressing the matter today, Ashraf said he expected PTI lawmakers to return to parliament, represent their constituencies and contribute to house proceedings.
“Their demand for transparent elections can only be fulfilled if we legislate better, take better measures and work out a strategy together with everyone’s agreement,” he emphasised.
He called for a consensus between the government and the opposition to resolve issues faced by the country. “Just like the government holds importance, so does the opposition,” the speaker remarked.
In reply to a question about “backdoor contacts” between the government and opposition, he stressed that all political leaders and political parties should “address matters with consensus”.
Earlier in the media talk, he highlighted the significance of parliament and using this forum to resolve various issues, which he said would “strengthen the economy” and bring “maturity in politics”.
“I request all political parties and people from all schools of thought that there should be stability in Pakistan’s politics now,” he said, adding, “We need to create an environment where we respect each other and keeping our small matters aside, come together for a bigger cause.
“This is the need of the hour.”
The speaker also emphasised the importance of assemblies completing their tenures, saying it would also “bring maturity [in politics] and strengthen the system”.