En masse resignations: what’s next? | The Express Tribune

The following mention appeared in The Express Tribune on April 12, 2022 at the following link

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2352138/en-masse-resignations-whats-next

There has not been a single dull moment in the mercurial political climate of the country in the past few weeks.

Just as the mood of politics seemed to be heading back on an even keel with the election of a new prime minister, bang came another twist.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), including former premier Imran Khan, announced they were quitting the National Assembly en masse.
Just a few days ago, the country was looking for a caretaker setup but it has now ended up electing

Shehbaz Sharif as the new prime minister on Monday evening after voting out Mr Khan from the coveted slot a day ago.

But before the process of transition of power could be completed, the announcement of en masse resignations moments before Shehbaz’s election lengthened the litany of political and constitutional crises the country is facing amid a deepening economic crisis.

“There can be a delay in accepting the resignations as no time-frame is given in the laws for it,” Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said, saying the acceptance or delay would also depend on if the current speaker proceeds ahead or the new speaker comes in and starts seeking clarification from the lawmakers.

Once the resignations are given, the PILDAT president said, the speaker would meet MNAs in person and seek clarification, which will take some time and ultimately give some time to the newly-elected government.

And once the resignations are accepted, the speaker will inform the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which will then hold by-elections to fill the vacant seats.

Commenting on the situation arising out of the en masse resignation, Mehboob said that optically it would look weird as there will not be any opposition member sitting on the benches, saying it isn’t good for democratic credentials but there is no bar on the government to move ahead.

On holding by-elections, he said, ECP will have to make arrangements for by-elections but keeping the big quit from PTI in view, the atmosphere in the country would be similar to that is usually witnessed during the general elections.

Advocate Imran Shafique said that by-elections are always held on the vacant seats, saying fresh elections are held only in two situations: the term of assembly is expired, or the assembly is dissolved.

The legal expert, who has served as the special prosecutor of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), also referred to Article 224 (4) (time of election and by-election) of the Constitution, which 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.”

On the verification of the resignations, Shafique while referring to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007, said that the rules 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), Shafique said that a member hands over the letter of resignation to the Speaker personally and informs him that the resignation is voluntary and genuine and the Speaker has no information or knowledge to the contrary.

Meanwhile, PTI’s former information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain announced that PTI will not take part in by-elections, saying if anyone was thinking that the by-elections could be held with PTI not participating in it then he may dare to go ahead.

The former government’s spokesperson also said that there was no need of seeking verification from individual lawmakers by the speaker as all PTI lawmakers have announced to resign while standing in the assembly.
Fawad said that the only hindrance between Imran Khan and two-third majority was fresh elections, saying PTI would soon be in power again.

Populist narrative

The country has been caught up in the vortex of constitutional and political crises for the past few weeks and former PM Imran Khan was and remains to be at the centre of it all.

First, political experts say, Imran advised the president to dissolve the National Assembly, which was later restored by the Supreme Court, and now he and his party have opted for quitting the lower house of the parliament and decided to hold rallies to exert public pressure for holding fresh general elections soon.

With roughly 15 months remaining in general elections, they say, Imran has built a new narrative around “foreign conspiracy”, entrenching a divisive line between those who lionise him as a saviour and those who call him just another populist leader acting up his own ego.

Throughout his tenure, Khan avoided meeting Shehbaz on grounds that he was a “criminal” and “the culprit of the nation”. Imran remained adamant on his stance and he preferred to resign from the assembly than sit on the opposition benches just to see Shehbaz as the leader of the House.

Since the House has to elect a new speaker and deputy speaker, the experts said, delay in accepting the resignations was quite possible, especially, if the NA speaker insists that Imran Khan should personally appear before him to verify that his resignation is genuine and voluntary.

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