The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday suspended National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s acceptance of the resignations of 43 PTI lawmakers and put by-elections in 43 constituencies on hold.
The court order was pronounced by Justice Shahid Karim on a petition filed by PTI’s Riaz Fatyana and 42 other MNAs against the NA speaker’s acceptance of their resignations and the Election Commission of Pakistan’s de-notification orders.
The ECP had de-notified 123 MNAs (including reserved seats), following the acceptance of resignations by the speaker.
During the hearing today, PTI lawyer Ali Zafar contended that PTI MNAs had withdrawn their resignation before the NA speaker had accepted them.
“Once the resignations are retracted, the speaker has no power to accept them […] this shows that the acceptance of the resignations is against the law and based on malice,” he argued.
Zafar further said that the NA speaker’s order was contrary to the rules set by the Supreme Court, claiming that Ashraf had only accepted the resignation to take “political revenge”.
“He never called PTI MNAs and asked them their stance,” he pointed out and requested the court to declare the speaker’s order null and void.
Subsequently, the court suspended Ashraf’s decision and the ECP’s de-notification order. Justice Karim also issued notices to the federal government and the electoral body and instructed them to submit their responses on the matter at the next hearing.
PTI lawmakers whose resignations have been suspended
- Muhammad Riaz Khan Fatyana
- Nasrullah Khan Dreshak
- Tahir Sadiq
- Zulfiqar Ali Khan
- Haji Imtiaz Chowdry
- Malik Muhammad Ehsan Ullah Tiwana
- Raza Nasrullah
- Muhammad Mehboob Sultan
- Muhammad Ameer Sultan
- Rai Muhammad Murtaza Iqbal
- Mian Muhammad Shafiq
- Muhammad Farooq Azam Malik
- Javed Iqbal Warakh
- Muhammad Shabbir Ali Qureshi
- Niaz Ahmed
- Khwaja Sheraz Mehmood
- Sardar Mohammad Khan Leghari
- Rukhsana Naveed
- Seemin Bukhari
- Munaza Hassan
- Nusrat Wahid
- Fauzia Behram
- Tashfeen Safdar
- Lal Chand
- Jai Parkash
- Jamshed Thomas
- Malik Anwar Taj
- Mohammad Yaqoob Sheikh
- Ghazala Saifi
- Syma Nadeem
- Naureen Farooque Khan
- Uzma Riaz
- Shaheen Niaz Saifullah
- Gul Zafar Khan
- Jawad Hussain
- Rahat Amanullah Bhatti
- Sobia Kamal Khan
- Nausheed Hamid
- Rubina Jamil
- Nafeesa Inayatullah Khattak
- Sajida Zulfqar
- Zile Huma
- Shunila Ruth
The petition stated that PTI lawmakers had requested the speaker not to de-notify them, as they had withdrawn resignations but the speaker still went ahead and accepted their resignations “without following due process”.
It contended that en masse resignations could not be treated as resignations, as they were not voluntary, but based on political considerations to force early elections.
This aspect was never denied by the speaker, and all petitioners were asked to return to parliament, the petition said.
But, when the petitioners opted to return to the assembly, and withdrew their resignations, the speaker “unlawfully” accepted their resignations on political grounds, it added.
The petition alleged that the speaker and the Election Commission never followed the law, but, instead, acted “on the dictation from high-ups”.
The speaker did not personally invite the lawmakers to verify their resignations, before accepting them, it added.
PTI lawmakers had resigned en masse from the lower house of parliament following the ouster of PTI chief Imran Khan in April last year.
NA Speaker Ashraf on July 28, 2022, accepted the resignations of only 11 PTI lawmakers.
The PTI had challenged the “piecemeal acceptance” in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), contesting that it was “unsustainable”. The IHC, however, had dismissed the petition on Sept 6, 2022.
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.
Ashraf told a PTI delegation on Dec 29, 2022, 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.
But after stalling the process for eight months, the NA speaker accepted the resignations of 34 PTI MNAs on Jan 17 and 35 MNAs on Jan 20, including Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid, as the party hinted it would “test” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif with a confidence vote.
On Jan 24, 43 PTI MNAs had written to the NA speakers withdrawing their resignations. However, the speaker had already accepted the resignations by then. Subsequently, on Jan 25, the ECP de-notified 43 more PTI lawmakers, taking the total number to 123.
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