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Sunday April 21, 2024

News Analysis: Legal experts divided on issue of convening NA session

Shoaib Shaheen said the ECP is a constitutional body, which should fulfil its constitutional responsibilities

By Rana Masood Hussain
February 27, 2024
A view of National Assembly in session. — APP/File
A view of National Assembly in session. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Constitutional and law experts are divided over President Arif Alvi’s rejection of the summary for convening the National Assembly session until the reserved seats for women and minorities of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) are given, as well as over the decision of NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to convene themeeting of the lower house of parliament on February 29.

One side believes that the NA cannot be considered complete until the SIC does not get the reserved seats for women and minorities, while the stance of the other side is that if the president does not convene the meeting of the lower house within 21 days under Article 91(2) of the constitution, the assembly speaker has the power to convene the session of the House.

In an exclusive conversation with this correspondent on the subject, Hafiz Ehsan Advocate, a well-known lawyer of the Supreme Court, said that the president is bound by Article 91(2) to convene the NA meeting within 21 days, and he is not restricted by any summary to convene the meeting of the lower house.

In this case too it was the responsibility of the president to convene the meeting within 21 days. After the election commission issued the notification of the successful general seat members, the president violated the constitution by not convening the meeting.

He said the SC also noted on two occasions that the president did not do what he should have, which means he has failed to fulfil his constitutional responsibilities.

He said that if the president rejected the summary for convening the meeting, the next option is that the speaker can ask the NA secretary to convene the meeting.

In response to a question, he said that constitutionally, the president cannot prevent the NA from holding a session to form a new government, as he must convene the first session within 21 days of the holding of the general elections in accordance with Article 91(2) of the constitution, because he cannot deviate from the obligations of this constitutional provision and its constitutional order.

He said that this extraordinary session does not depend on the discretion of the president or the prime minister, as the president is bound to act on the advice according to Article 48(1) of the constitution, and neither is there any statutory authority to adjourn the matter after 21 days according to Article 91 of the constitution, nor can he return the summary of the meeting.

He said that in the present situation, if the president does not do so, the NA secretary would start the process of convening the meeting

PTI leader Shoaib Shaheen Advocate was of the view that under Article 91(2) of the Constitution, the president calls the session within 21 days, but for this to happen the assembly must be completed. The Election Commission is bound to give us (Sunni Ittehad Council) specific seats in the assembly, but today even after 18-19 days, the matter is still pending, he said, adding that in fact, the Election Commission has practically become a “hub for crimes”.

Shoaib Shaheen said the ECP is a constitutional body, which should fulfil its constitutional responsibilities. He complained that reserved seats have been given to other parties, but one party is still not being given reserved seats. The president will call the session on the day the NA is completed, and only after that the decisions on the speaker, deputy speaker and prime minister will be taken, he said.

Het PTI leader said it is purely the discretion of the president, and no one other than him can call the meeting. The speaker has no role in this matter, he reiterated.

Colonel (retired) Inam-ur-Rahim Advocate said this work belongs to the president, but if he does not call the meeting, then the authority automatically goes to the speaker. However, he said, the matter of reserved seats is a technical matter and it has happened for the first time in the parliamentary history of Pakistan.

He said it was an important issue when the ECP directed the PTI to hold intra-party elections, but it did not pay heed to the directives, and even when the intra-party elections were held out of compulsion, those too were controversial.

He said people from the same party filed applications in courts that the elections were held in Chamkani after they were told that they would be held in Peshawar. He said the PTI people were suffering the consequences of their own doing.

He said the unfortunate thing is that our political parties talk about democracy but they are not even ready to sit with each other, and the result is that on the first day when the nation expects that today those people will be elected who decide our fate, there is a spectacle in the parliament.

Dr Aslam Khaki Advocate, an expert in Islamic jurisprudence, said that this controversy is in full swing these days, and if the Election Commission resolves it, it will be fine; otherwise, if this matter goes to the Supreme Court, it will be resolved immediately.

He said that as far as the requirement of calling a session within 21 days under the Constitution by the president is concerned, even before that the general elections could not be held within 90 days. In my opinion, justice demands that after the inclusion of PTI-supported members, the matter of giving specific seats to the Sunni Ittehad Council should also be resolved, and after that the speaker, deputy speaker and the prime minister should be elected. He opined that the ECP can resolve this issue within a day.