Saner judicial advice

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THE Supreme Court has once again urged Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to return to the National Assembly.

Hearing a petition of the party against verdict of Islamabad High Court (IHC) on the issue of acceptance of the resignations of the PTI members by the Speaker in a piecemeal manner, a two-member bench of the apex court comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ayesha Malik said that the IHC has given a clear ruling on the phase-wise acceptance of MNAs’ resignations, adding that the Speaker has the legal right to accept the resignations of MNAs.

Prima facie, if the Speaker’s rights are infringed upon, it will attract Article 69. The top court has repeatedly asked PTI to return to the Assembly and play its role there in legislative and other business as mandated by the people of Pakistan.

The latest counselling comes on the heels of a similar advice by IHC when the court also held the decision of then Deputy Speaker National Assembly Qasim Suri about acceptance of resignations of 123 MNAs belonging to PTI as unconstitutional.

The issue has several dimensions including questions about powers and authority of the Speaker, non-representation of these constituencies in the National Assembly for months, huge expenditure involved in holding by-elections if all the resignations are accepted, enthusiastic participation of the PTI in all the by-elections and its tacit decision not to resign from the provincial assemblies of the Punjab and KP where PTI has its own governments.

The Supreme Court justifiably pointed out to the party’s counsel that people elected his clients for a term of five years and the party should play its role in Parliament.

There is also a contradiction in the policy of the party as its members claim to have resigned from the Assembly but continue to receive salaries and fringe benefits as MNAs and claim rights and privileges as members whenever it suits them.

The party also alleges that the decision of the incumbent Speaker to accept resignations in a phased-wise manner is malafide but the Speaker has the power to do so as and when he is satisfied that procedural formalities have been met for the purpose.

It is also rightly pointed out that if Qasim Suri had the powers to accept resignations of 123 MNAs with one stroke of the pen and that too when laid down procedure was not followed, then why can’t the incumbent Speaker exercise his powers in this regard.

In this backdrop the CJP remarked that IHC CJ Athar Minallah issued his ruling after deep legal deliberations adding if the court intervenes, it will be difficult for the Speaker to do the job.

Pakistan is a parliamentary democracy and those elected to the houses are duty bound to represent their electorates in legislatures and play their role as members.

It is strange that PTI has opted to stay out and instead agitate issues before the judiciary, a practice that could create tension between the two organs of the state if the element of infringement in the domain of the other gains credence.

The present Assembly has the powers to make laws but PTI has challenged in the court amendments in the accountability law and criticizes adoption of bills relating to electoral reforms and right of vote for Overseas Pakistanis.

The element of huge expenditure involved in holding by-elections is also worth-considering by the apex court.

Pakistan is facing enormous financial challenges and the government is increasingly finding it difficult to pay salaries and pensions on time and, therefore, the country was not in a position to afford the luxury of by-elections and that too for the sake of elections as PTI is following the practice of resigning again from the seats it is winning in by-elections.

It was with this mindset that the party decided to field Imran Khan for all the nine seats of the National Assembly for which by-elections were announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

PTI seeks dislodging of the coalition government and holding of fresh elections immediately and for this purpose it is resorting to the politics of protests and confrontation.

Instead, it should rejoin the Assembly, give tough time to the government on legislative business and try to win over support of some parliamentary parties to form its government again as it did in the case of Punjab.

 

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