PESHAWAR: Opposition leader in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Dr Ibadullah Khan has formally requested Speaker of the provincial legislature Babar Saleem Swati to call a sitting of the house for the swearing-in of the members elected to the seats reserved for women and non-Muslims.

In a letter, the opposition leader urged the speaker to take “necessary action” for calling the session to implement the orders of the Peshawar High Court.

As the provincial government refused to call the sitting, the opposition moved the high court, which has directed the provincial chief minister and cabinet to convene the assembly’s sitting within a fortnight to ensure that those elected on reserved seats take oath.

The orders were issued by a division bench comprising Justice Syed Mohammad Attique Shah and Justice Shakeel Ahmad on Friday in a detailed judgement on three identical petitions filed by around 20 MPAs-elect of the opposition.

Govt says it has no objections to PHC’s orders for sitting

The bench also directed the speaker to administer oaths to those lawmakers in the session to be requisitioned in accordance with its orders.

In its March 27 short order, it didn’t issue such orders to the CM and the provincial cabinet.

However, the detailed judgement declared that both the CM and the cabinet should “take all material steps in terms of Article 109 along with all enabling provisions of the Constitution for summoning the session of the provincial assembly within a fortnight positively, after receipt of this judgement, so that the oath is administered to the petitioners in terms of Article 65 of the Constitution before the Senate election.”

When contacted, spokesman for the provincial government Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif said the government had “no objections” to the court’s orders.

He, however, said it was the prerogative of the assembly’s speaker to “formulate the agenda for the session and call it.

Mr Saif also told Dawn that under Article 69 of the Constitution, it was beyond the mandate of the judiciary to call a sitting of the provincial legislature.

Last month, provincial Governor Ghulam Ali called an assembly session on March 22 for the swearing-in of members elected to the reserved and minority seats and notified by the Election Commission of Pakistan on March 4.

The move caused a tiff between the governor and the newly-elected government, which declared it against the rules as well as the Constitution.

The office of Speaker Babar Saleem Swati also sought the opinion of the law department about whether the governor’s order in question was in line with the Constitution.

The government’s refusal to call the sitting on March 22 led to a protest by opposition members, who alleged that the government wanted to deprive the members elected to reserved seats of the right to cast votes in the Senate polls.

Opposition leader Dr Ibadullah Khan of the PML-N insisted that the government’s move to block the swearing-in of members was meant to “claim four extra seats” in the Senate polls.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2024

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