LAHORE: Notwithstanding concerns over parliament letting courts encroach on its jurisdiction, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has practically been given another chance to play its role in the National Assembly, where it can now replace the ‘friendly opposition’ currently in the house and give the ruling PDM coalition a ‘tough time’.
The Lahore High Court on Wednesday suspended the speaker’s decision to accept the en masse resignations of 43 PTI MNAs, while also suspending the ECP’s notification of the same, enabling the party to return to parliament.
But while the PTI is jubilant over its victory and is terming its return to the assembly a “surprise” for the PDM government, experts believe that political parties are compromising parliamentary sovereignty by allowing the judiciary to intervene in parliamentary affairs, despite being a separate pillar of the state.
PML-N leader Malik Ahmad Khan told Dawn on Wednesday his party would be deliberating whether or not the court had the power to suspend the speaker’s decision.
Asad Umar asks Raja Riaz to ‘vacate office’; practice of placing matters of parliament before courts regretted
“The LHC has not turned down, but suspended the speaker’s order for now, and the PML-N will be looking into legal options to challenge it,” he said, saying that now, the PTI had back-tracked from its principled stance of resigning from the National Assembly.
Mr Khan agreed that the PTI could demand the office of the leader of the opposition in the lower house, being the largest opposition party, adding that the PDM and the ECP would now be forced to argue over the court’s interim order.
He was of the opinion that the judiciary should not intervene in the jurisdiction of parliament, and parties should not be taking political concerns to the courts.
However, he conceded that sometimes, certain parliamentary matters do end up in court for their assistance on constitutional points or legal aspects.
Meanwhile, PTI leaders said the NA speaker had suddenly accepted the resignations of its members when the party showed its intention to expose the “friendly opposition”, led by PTI dissident MNA Raja Riaz, in a bid to force Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to take a vote of confidence.
They said the party had also written to the speaker, asking him not to accept the resignations. However, the PTI’s intentions forced the custodian of the house to accept them– thereby reneging from his earlier decision about accepting resignations only after personally verifying them with all legislators.
PTI Secretary-General Asad Umar also weighed in on the controversy, saying that the court had suspended the speaker’s decision, taken on a “political basis”.
Asserting that the party’s 43 MNAs had their NA membership restored, Mr Umar sarcastically asked incumbent opposition leader Raja Riaz to “get ready to vacate the opposition leader’s room”.
The PTI leadership said the party was placing all its issues before the courts and not negotiating with the ruling coalition, because it did not believe in the legitimacy of the “imported government” that toppled the elected PTI government through the “regime change conspiracy”.
They say the party would reclaim its role as the main opposition party and the seat of leader of the opposition in the assembly so they could give a tough time to the ruling coalition in matters related to a potential vote of confidence in the National Assembly, when the time would come.
However, elections and governance specialist Muddassir Rizvi expressed concerns over the increasing instances where parliamentary decisions are being challenged in court, saying that it was denting the sovereignty of parliament.
Mr Rizvi, who is associated with the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen), said that earlier, courts used to be cautious when taking up parliamentary matters.
He regretted that the political parties have disengaged themselves from the political discourse. “Parliament’s supremacy is being compromised,” he observed.
Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2023
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