ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has decided to once again invite the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers to appear before him in person for verification of their resignations, which they had submitted after a successful vote on the no-confidence resolution against then prime minister Imran Khan in April, and reiterated his stance that he would not accept these resignations collectively.
In a video message here on Thursday, the NA speaker said he would soon allocate time for each PTI lawmaker to personally appear before him in his chamber for verification of his/her resignations.
The announcement from the speaker came a day after PTI Senator Shibli Faraz stated that his party had decided that its lawmakers would not go to the Parliament House, and instead, the PTI would approach the Supreme Court to seek acceptance of the mass resignations despite the fact that six days back, PTI’s senior vice-chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi had written a letter to the speaker, asking him to allocate some time for the party’s MNAs to verify their resignations.
Mr Ashraf in his video message said that his secretariat had already written a reply to Mr Qureshi’s letter, informing him that the PTI lawmakers would be issued notices asking them to appear before him for verification of their resignations as required under the rules.
Claims several members do not want to quit assembly
He, however, said in categorical terms that the PTI lawmakers would have to come to his chamber “one by one” to satisfy him that they had submitted the resignations voluntarily and without any pressure.
The speaker claimed that a number of PTI lawmakers had approached him and asked him not to accept their resignations. He said the PTI lawmakers had told him that they were not in favour of leaving the forum of the parliament and even opposed the idea of en masse resignations in one of the party meetings, but they had to sign the resignations in line with the party’s “collective decision”. Moreover, he quoted the unidentified PTI lawmakers to have told him that they remained silent believing that their leadership was doing all this as a political move to put pressure on the government for early elections and the decision would not be implemented in the real sense.
Mr Ashraf said that he personally wished to see all the PTI lawmakers returning to the assembly to represent their constituents and discuss the public issues on the forum of the parliament. However, he said, if they still wanted to resign, then they would have to “satisfy” him that their resignations were genuine and had not submitted under duress. He claimed that most of the resignations were not hand-written as required under the rules and had similar text.
Mr Ashraf refuted the impression that he was delaying the acceptance of the resignations in violation of the rules, stating that he would make decision in accordance with the laws and rules.
“No one should have any doubt that I will violate the rules. No one can use me,” claimed Mr Ashraf in an apparent reference to the allegations by the PTI that he had been delaying the acceptance of the resignations for political gains and at the behest of the coalition government.
Mr Ashraf recalled that he had invited the PTI lawmakers in June to appear before him for verification of the resignations, but no one turned up thus implying that they did not want to quit the assembly.
The decision to resign en masse from the assembly had been taken at the PTI’s parliamentary party meeting, chaired by Imran Khan, and it was announced by PTI vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi on the floor of the assembly just minutes before election of Shehbaz Sharif as the prime minister on April 11.
Former deputy speaker Qasim Suri, who was then functioning as the acting speaker, immediately accepted the resignations and directed the NA Secretariat to issue a notification. On April 14, the PTI had through social media released the NA Secretariat’s notification declaring that 123 party MNAs “resigned from their seats by writing under their hand” to the speaker. The notification, signed by NA Secretary Tahir Hussain, had declared that after submission of the resignations their seats had become vacant in terms of Article 64(1) of the Constitution, with effect from April 11. However, soon after his election as the speaker, Mr Ashraf directed the Secretariat staff to stop the process, and gave the ruling that he would verify each and every resignation.
Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2022
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