Newly elected National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Saturday directed the assembly secretariat to deal with the resignations of 123 lawmakers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) afresh and present them before him so that they could be treated as per law.
The ruling of the 22nd speaker of the assembly has come amid claims and speculations that some of the PTI lawmakers were now willing to retract and have been conveying messages that their resignations should not be accepted.
“I direct the assembly secretariat that the resignations be dealt with as per the previous rulings and precedents and should be produced before me again so that we may proceed ahead as per the law,” Speaker Ashraf ruled during the session.
The direction came within hours after Ashraf took the oath of the office and presided over the session following NA deputy speaker Qasim Khan Suri’s resignation hours before a motion of no-confidence tabled against him could be voted upon.
The new direction has come days after Suri’s ruling through which he had accepted the resignations of the PTI lawmakers after they resigned en masse from the assembly in protest over alleged “foreign interference” which ousted ex-prime minister Imran Khan.
Also read: Resignations of 123 PTI MNAs accepted
Ashraf’s ruling has opened up the chapter of the resignation once again and it is being conjectured that the process of verification would ‘deliberately’ take some time to give the newly-formed government some time to settle down.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has recently been elected as the new chief executive of the country after former PM Imran Khan was ousted through a no-confidence motion. Sharif, however, has not yet been able to finalize his cabinet that he has to fill by taking in lawmakers from a large coalition.
The issue of PTI lawmakers wanting to take back their resignations surfaced after PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq revealed on the floor of the house that several PTI MNAs have called him to convey that their resignations should not be accepted as they were given under pressure.
PTI lawmakers approached Sadiq as he has been presiding over the sessions since the ex-speaker NA Asad Qaiser resigned followed by PTI lawmakers amid the political turmoil gripping the country for weeks now.
Sadiq said that the verification afresh was crucial as the resignations that have so far been given were on cyclostyle papers when the rules state that they should be in the members’ own handwriting. Secondly, he said, individual verification has not taken place, which is an imperative part of the process.
“I’m fasting; standing beneath the names of Allah [in the assembly]; I have got calls from several members; the honourable colleagues from PTI, who are not sitting here, saying that they don’t want to resign as we have been pressurized and burdened,” Sadiq said, adding “I’m saying it on oath and want to bring it in your knowledge because the process of verification would be extremely important for you [Ashraf].”
Meanwhile, NA secretariat officials confirmed that the resignations accepted by Suri were never sent to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), saying the former deputy speaker was clearly told that the process that he had adopted to accept the resignations was not correct. However, they said, Suri proceeded ahead and accepted the resignations.
Following the NA Speaker’s ruling, the officials said that the process of verification would start afresh, hoping that the legal formalities would be fulfilled this time around. PTI officials, however, have been saying that there was no need for any verification as all PTI lawmakers had announced they were resigning while standing in the assembly.
During the session on Saturday, several lawmakers recalled that PTI had also resigned from the assembly in 2014 but had, later on, come back to the assembly and even received the pending salaries.
The disgruntled members of PTI, who were in attendance in the session on Saturday, also pointed out that the chair of the opposition leader was empty and ex-PM should come back to take charge.
It has widely been believed that the roughly 20 dissident PTI members, who have not yet resigned, were likely to get the position of the opposition leader being the largest party among the remaining opposition parties in NA.
The Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007, mandate “personal appearance and verification” and the Speaker has to verify and inquire whether the resignation is “genuine and voluntary”.
Under Clause (2) (a) of Rule 43 (resignation of seat), a member has to hand over the letter of resignation to the Speaker personally and inform him that the resignation is voluntary and genuine and the Speaker has no information or knowledge to the contrary.
Legal experts say that Article 224 (4) (time of election and by-election) of the Constitution, makes it mandatory to hold by-elections on vacant seats within 60 days.
Article 224 (4) states: “when, except by dissolution of the National Assembly or a Provincial Assembly, a seat in any such Assembly has become vacant not later than one hundred and twenty days before the term of that Assembly is due to expire, an election to fill the seat shall be held within sixty days from the occurrence of the vacancy.”