NA resignations: Speaker sticks to individual verification stance as PTI adamant on en masse acceptance
National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf told a PTI delegation on Thursday that the party’s lawmakers would be summoned individually for verification of their resignations as the latter insisted on them being accepted in one go.
The PTI had announced mass resignations from the National Assembly in April, a day after party chief Imran Khan’s ouster as the prime minister through a no-confidence vote and shortly before Shehbaz Sharif was elected as his successor.
On July 28, the National Assembly speaker accepted the resignations of only 11 PTI lawmakers who had resigned after the vote of no confidence against the former PM.
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.
The party then approached the Supreme Court, 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.
While the PTI wants the speaker to accept the resignations collectively, Ashraf insists he will accept them one by one after the personel appearance of each member of National Assembly.
On Thursday, the PTI delegation comprising Qasim Khan Suri, Malik Amir Dogar, Amjad Khan Niazi, Faheem Khan, Amjad Khan Niazi, Dr Shabbir Khan Lal, Ataullah and Tahir Iqbal visited the speaker. The delegation was led by Ashraf’s predecessor Asad Qaiser.
According to an official handout released after today’s meeting, Ashraf said that a decision regarding the confirmation of resignations would be taken as per the Constitution and the rules of the National Assembly.
He reminded the visiting delegation that PTI members had previously been invited to confirm the resignations to no avail. Ashraf further said that a PTI MNA had also approached the courts to block the acceptance of his resignation, the handout said.
“Doors should not be closed in politics. There should be communication between politicians,” the handout quoted him as saying.
For its part, the PTI placed an eight-point agenda in front of the NA speaker which stated that the party had resigned en masse to pave the way for early elections.
The party further maintained that it did not submit the resignations for the speaker’s “entertainment”, adding that the move to accept only 11 of them was “unconstitutional”.
Citing a previous decision by the apex court, the PTI said that the resignations had been accepted by the former deputy speaker and the notification could not be reversed. The party called on the NA speaker to forward their resignations to the electoral watchdog.
NA speaker advises PTI to return to parliament
Speaking to the media after today’s meeting, the NA speaker said that the PTI delegation wanted the resignations of its lawmakers to be accepted in one go.
He pointed out that under Article 64 of the Constitution, the resignation should first and foremost be handwritten. Once it is received, the speaker will meet with the member to ascertain whether or not the resignation was submitted under duress, he said.
He also highlighted that several PTI lawmakers had moved the courts and claimed that the PTI had decided to use the move to pressure the government, while some had submitted leave applications.
Ashraf advised the PTI to return to the assembly, saying that their voice “would be more effective” in parliament. “You are senior people. I expect you to come to parliament. I assure you that as speaker, I will give you the full opportunity to speak. Parliament is a forum where everyone comes together.”
He went on to say that at the end of the meeting, the PTI delegation said it would consult the party regarding the points raised today. He noted that the PTI desired early elections.
“We can only talk about this when you come to the House,” he said as he again advised the PTI to return to parliament. “We need to discuss all issues in parliament.”
The NA speaker asserted that he only looked at the Constitution and the rules when accepting resignations, reiterating that lawmakers were required to prove that it was a “voluntary act”. He also offered to write another letter to the lawmakers for verifying their resignations.
He termed then-deputy speaker Suri’s acceptance of the resignations to be “unconstitutional”, saying that the matter was of utmost importance as it concerned the people’s mandate.
One-by-one verification ‘not acceptable’
On the other hand, Qaiser — who lead the PTI’s delegation — said that the one-by-one acceptance of resignations was “not acceptable under any circumstances”.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, the former NA speaker said, “One MNA will come, [then] the rest will go somewhere outside [of the city and] they will call the second [MNA] after 15-20 days. This will take time [so], this would not happen.”
He asserted that the party’s resignations should be accepted collectively.
Referring to the acceptance of the resignations of 11 PTI MNAs, Qaiser termed it to be a “political decision” by the NA speaker as “he thought that they were weak constituencies”.
Noting that Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had invited the party to return to parliament, Qaiser termed the tone of the invite to be “threatening”.
He asserted that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab assemblies, where the PTI is in power, would be dissolved.
Meanwhile, Dogar — who was also present alongside Qaiser — clarified that PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Secretary General Asad Umar and PTI KP President Pervez Khattak were originally supposed to attend today’s meeting.
However, the PTI chief called all three to his Zaman Park residence in Lahore for a “very important meeting” at 3pm, he said.