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Monday July 22, 2024

After much drama, National Assembly session to take place on Feb 29 despite President Alvi's 'refusal'

President Alvi believes NA is incomplete sans allocation of all reserved seats

By Waqar Satti
February 26, 2024
President Arif Alvi (left) and National Assembly outgoing Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. —X/APP/@NAofPakistan
President Arif Alvi (left) and National Assembly outgoing Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. —X/APP/@NAofPakistan

Following President Arif Alvi's move to return the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs summary, the National Assembly Secretariat on Monday convened the lower house of parliament’s session on February 29 at 10am.

In a statement on Monday, the secretariat said the NA session is bound to take place on the 21st day of the general elections under Article 91 of the Constitution.

The president could have summoned the session on the 21st day but he did not, the secretariat officials said.

The NA secretariat said the president and speaker’s notification is not required to summon the session on the 21st day of the polling.

Earlier today, sources told Geo News that outgoing Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has “decided” to convene the inaugural session of the new lower house of parliament on February 29 amid a looming constitutional crisis.

Amid allegations of massive rigging in the general elections, the fresh controversy over the NA session may trigger a new constitutional crisis in the country.

Alvi believed that the NA was incomplete sans the allocation of all the reserved seats to the political parties.

While the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has allocated reserved seats to political parties, it has not awarded reserved quota to the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed independent candidates joined their ranks.

The ECP, however, said that the matter of SIC reserved seats is “pending before the commission”.

The PML-N-led alliance, who claimed winning the majority in the February 8 polls, was of the view that the NA session must be called within 21 days after the elections, what their leadership said as per the Constitution.

The sources said that the decision was made during an emergency meeting headed by NA speaker and attended by the officials of the NA Secretariat and constitutional experts.

The NA speaker decided to call the session under Article 91 (2), the sources added.

There was no constitutional hurdle in summoning the NA session despite the president’s denial, constitutional experts briefed the speaker.

The president was bound by the law to convene the NA session within 21 days after the elections, they added. The inaugural session had to be held after 21 days, the Constitution deadline, under any circumstances, the legal experts added.

The NA Secretariat also consulted with the ministries of Law and Parliamentary Affairs.

Meanwhile, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said the head of the state did not have room to put conditions on calling the NA session.

Taking to her X handle, formerly known as Twitter, she said: “Article 91 (2) provides that the National Assembly shall have to meet on the 21st day on which the general election to the assembly is held, unless sooner summoned by the president.

“It means explicitly that the powers of the President under Article 54 (1) is restricted to a maximum of 21 days with respect to the inaugural session of the NA.”

Commenting on the ongoing controversy over the new NA session, legal expert Rida Hosain said: “The Constitution states the National Assembly shall meet on the 21st day following the day on which a general election is held, unless sooner summoned by the president”.

“The President can summon [the NA session] prior to the 21st day, but cannot go beyond it,” she added.

“After the election of the speaker and the deputy speaker in the NA shall, to the exclusion of any other business, proceed to elect without debate one of its Muslim members to be the prime minister,” the lawyer said, quoting the Constitution.