LAHORE High Court (LHC) Justice Shahid Karim on Friday declared “null and void” a notification about acceptance of resignations of 72 Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) by the National Assembly speaker Raja Parvez Ashraf, giving a new twist to the issue of resignations as well as the prevailing political situation in the country. The PTI MNAs, including Fawad Chaudhry, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pervaiz Khattak, Shafqat Mehmood, Riaz Fatiyana and others had challenged through their counsel Barrister Ali Zafar the acceptance of their resignations as the MNAs. In the petitions, the lawmakers maintained that the Speaker did not listen to their viewpoint before accepting their resignations.
In their initial reaction, the coalition parties have termed it as yet another proof of ‘judicial facilitation’ for the beleaguered PTI and a gross interference in the working of parliament and powers of the Speaker National Assembly. It is, however, not clear what exactly would be the strategy of the Government – whether it would go into appeal against the decision of the Lahore High Court or the Speaker would interpret the issue differently in the given political tussle. In fact, the PTI erred on a number of occasions during the last one year and the decision to submit enmass resignations of its Members of the National Assembly was one of the classic examples of political blunders as the party gained nothing from the unwise move. It is also a fact that the Speaker waited for months and issued repeated notices to the members concerned to appear before him for verification of the resignations but PTI insisted on acceptance of the resignations and even knocked the doors of the judiciary for the purpose. On several occasions, the Supreme Court also counselled PTI to retract resignations and rejoin the National Assembly but such suggestions fell on deaf ears. Arguing before the LHC, counsel for the petitioners Barrister Ali Zafar maintained that the Speaker could not accept the resignation of any MNA without following the three-pronged procedure enshrined in the Constitution and ensuring that the resignation was given on free will. The question arises if the resignations were not given voluntarily then why the then Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, who belonged to the PTI, accepted all the resignations instantly. Throughout, during the last one year, PTI abhorred the idea of returning to the Assembly and therefore, the latest move to send it back to NA at the fag end of the Assembly’s tenure seems to be an attempt to make it a stakeholder in decision-making vis-à-vis the formation of the interim set up at the Centre. There are also apprehensions that the verdict might accentuate the tension between the judiciary and parliament.