The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday seconded the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) advice to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as it urged the party to rejoin the parliament.
The top court was hearing a petition filed by the PTI challenging the IHC’s judgement where the court had termed the phased acceptance of party resignations by the National Assembly Speaker as legal.
Echoing the high court’s ruling, the SC expressed reservations against the court’s jurisdiction on the matter being affected by “interfering with the powers of the speaker” as it adjourned the case indefinitely.
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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.
However, on April 17, the newly elected NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf 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 PTI 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.
The PTI had then challenged the IHC’s judgement, which declared the acceptance of PTI lawmakers’ resignations as unconstitutional, in the SC.
During the proceedings today, the two-member apex court bench consisting of Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial and Justice Ayesha Malik heard the PTI’s plea against the phased acceptance of resignations.
“The people have elected its representatives for five years,” the court observed, “it would be best if the PTI would play its role in parliament, which is its real duty”.
The CJP urged the PTI not to “rush” the matter, adding that IHC CJ Athar Minallah had given judgement only after reviewing the law in depth.
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“To interfere in the speaker’s matters in this manner is indeed a very difficult issue for the court,” the CJ observed.
“Millions of people have been displaced by the floods,” CJ Bandial added, ”the victims have neither water to drink nor bread to eat”.
“Also look at the economic condition of the country,” the judge added, “what would be the cost of the by-elections on the 123 seats?”
The PTI lawyer Faisal Chaudhry argued that if elections can be held on the 11 seats that fell vacant after their resignations were approved then “why not the remaining 114”?
“When individual members can approach the courts, then in what capacity are you speaking of collective resignations?” Justice Malik inquired.
“What is the real goal here?” CJ Bandial added, “ what benefit would PTI gain even if elections would take place on all 123 seats?”.
The PTI’s counsel argued that the “pick and choose strategy” was intended to “target” the party, but Justice Malik responded by saying that “resignations are the individual right of each member” and questioned how the PTI could approach the court as a party in the first place.
“One must act with dignity and patience in state affairs,” added CJ Bandial.
“Take advice from your party and inform the court again,” the SC directed the PTI’s counsel and adjourned the hearing indefinitely.