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Controversy over legislator’s resignation

September 25, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Sept 24: An official announcement by the National Assembly (NA) Secretariat on Monday saying that PML-Q member of national assembly (MNA) “Shahnaz Sheikh has tendered her resignation from the seat reserved for women from Punjab” and that “the seat has fallen vacant” later proved to be wrong.

The official handout brought to the surface a controversy about her resignation as sources close to the MNA denied that Ms Sheikh had submitted the resignation, whereas the NA Secretariat officials claimed that they possessed a copy of her resignation submitted by her on September 17.

Now who is right and who is wrong will be disclosed in the coming days as the apex court has also taken notice of the matter.

As details became available to Dawn, it seemed that there had been a faux pas, committed purely on the part of the NA Secretariat.

A senior official of the NA Secretariat, Anjum Mughal, when contacted, said the handout had wrongly been issued by an officer and the MNA’s resignation was still under process in the legal branch.

He said the signature on the resignation was not matching with her signatures available in the Secretariat record and that they had been unable to contact her personally for verification.

Which makes it a bit of a mystery: who forged her signatures?

On the other hand, daughter of Ms Sheikh who picked up the MNA’s cell phone told Dawn that her mother had never submitted any resignation. Without elaborating, she said her mother had been the victim of a “conspiracy” being hatched against her.

Taking refuge in the odd conspiracy theory, further complicates matters, but when Dawn probed further, she refused to talk on the pretext that only her mother would respond to further queries.

But the million dollar question, which even the NA Secretariat staff are asking: where is the honourable legislator?

The controversy came to light two days after Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry while taking cognisance of different news items published in the print media, after the court’s verdict on dual nationals, ordered its office to dispatch a letter to PML-Q member Shahnaz Sheikh, who had also served as the minister of state for health during the previous military regime of Gen Pervez Musharraf, to confirm a news report that she is holding citizenship of Australia for the last 16 years.

The letter, according to the court order, was to be sent to Ms Sheikh through the National Assembly secretary.

A reporter of an English Daily under whose name the news item appeared has also been asked to give reasons to establish the contents of his story.

Some political circles believe that perhaps Ms Sheikh had submitted her resignation in haste fearing a possible adverse decision against her by the court, but now she has changed her mind and has decided to contest her case.

While sending 11 legislators home, the Supreme Court had last week directed Interior Minister Rehman Malik to come forward and justify his utterances that more than 30 lawmakers still enjoyed dual citizenship.

Those who were disqualified by the apex court under Article 63(1c) of the Constitution for having dual nationality comprised four members of the National Assembly and seven members of the provincial assemblies of the Punjab and Sindh.

The Supreme Court has ordered that the information so solicited be furnished on or before September 27, so that further proceedings, if needed, be initiated.