National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Sunday urged Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders to return to parliament and said that he would not accept any resignations unless he was “satisfied”.
It is pertinent to note that PTI leader Qasim Suri, in his capacity as the acting speaker on April 13 had accepted the resignations of 123 PTI MNAs, who had accepted their party chairman Imran Khan’s appeal after his removal from the office of the prime minister through a no-confidence motion earlier in April.
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However, on April 17, the newly elected NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had directed the assembly secretariat to deal with the resignations of the PTI lawmakers afresh and present them before him so that they could be treated as per law.
The ruling of the 22nd speaker of the assembly had come amid claims and speculations that some of the former ruling party lawmakers had been willing to retract and have been conveying messages that their resignations should not be accepted.
Later on, in June, the ruling coalition had formulated a strategy on the matter of en masse resignation of PTI lawmakers from the National Assembly and agreed to proceed with phase-wise acceptance.
Meanwhile, parliamentary sources had disclosed that about 30 members of the former ruling party did not want to resign from the legislature and added that these lawmakers can directly reach out to the NA speaker to stop the acceptance of their resignations.
Later, the IHC had termed the resignations of 123 PTI MNAs “suspicious” after it was informed that the parliamentarians were not called in a personal capacity before the National Assembly speaker.
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The PTI had then challenged the IHC’s judgement, which declared the acceptance of PTI lawmakers’ resignations as unconstitutional, in the SC. However, the apex court too had seconded the high court's advice to the PTI as it urged the party to rejoin the parliament.
Speaking to journalists in Lahore today, the speaker said that “there are rules and a due process in place for accepting resignations. The friends that had resigned and then on different occasions, be it television, media, newspapers stated that they had resigned, I accepted their resignations”.
“The law dictates of me that even if a member comes to me and says that they have reigned but I have information that they are being pressured and are being forced to give the statement under duress, then I would not accept their resignation,” he said.
“However, the situation is completely different here,” he continued, “they continue to remain in the [parliamentary] lodges […] they continue to take the perks of the secretariat and then they send messages saying ‘Mr Speaker, please do not accept my resignation' then under such circumstances I have to consider a great deal”.
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“I will not deseat anyone unless I am satisfied,” he added, “in fact now I hope for them to come and sit in the parliament”.
“They have the mandate of their respective constituencies and they should fulfill their duties of representation,” the speaker said.
“If they want elections to be transparent then that is only possible if we make laws for that, […] if we build a strategy together with consensus,” he said questioning “what forum would we all gather in if we would not go to parliament?”
For all matters concerning governance, Ashraf insisted the “best solution” to resolve things lies in “the divide between opposition and government”.
Responding to questions, the speaker also said that “premature dissolution of assemblies prevented democracy from taking root” and therefore believed that it was important for assemblies to complete their terms.
He noted that for the past 15 years, the assemblies have completed their term and stressed that “completing the term for the fourth time would strengthen institutions”.
“The need of the hour is for all political parties to work together by building consensus to tend to matters,” he said adding that “this is not about an individual’s victory or defeat”.