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Saturday May 18, 2024

Alvi makes a virtue of necessity, calls NA session

According to the President House announcement, the president accorded his approval while keeping in view the mandate

By By Asim Yasin & Farooq Aqdas & Muhammad Anis
February 29, 2024
President Arif Alvi addresses a joint session of the Parliament to mark the beginning of the last parliamentary year of the current National Assembly on October 6, 2022. — X/@NAofPakistan
President Arif Alvi addresses a joint session of the Parliament to mark the beginning of the last parliamentary year of the current National Assembly on October 6, 2022. — X/@NAofPakistan

ISLAMABAD: In a late night development, subject to some reservations, President Dr Arif Alvi summoned the National Assembly (NA) session today (29th February) in exercise of the powers conferred by the Article 54(1) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

The NA Secretariat has issued a notification prior to convening of the inaugural NA session of National Assembly for oath taking of newly-elected members of National Assembly.

According to the President House announcement, the president accorded his approval while keeping in view the mandate and implications of the timeline given in Article 91(2) and subject to some reservations and expecting the resolution of the issue of reserved seats before the 21st day.

While responding to the summary sent by the caretaker prime minister, the president said that the tone and tenor of the honorable caretaker prime minister of Pakistan was unfortunate. He stated that the president, who was Head of the State and represented the unity of the Republic as per Article 41 of the Constitution, took an exception to the contents of the summary.

The president wrote that “summaries are not usually addressed in this way. It is sad that Chief Executive of the country addresses the Head of the State in the first form and resorts to unacceptable language and allegations without any substance.” He highlighted that he believed and always maintained the principle of objectivity and neutrality in accordance with his oath and responsibilities under the Constitution of Pakistan.

The president said that he could not be oblivious of some incongruities in the electoral process and the process of formation of the government. He added that he had to keep national interest in his view, for cohesiveness and betterment of the nation. Return of the summary was very much in accordance with the provisions of Article 48(1), he maintained.

“It is not understood on what grounds it has been taken as a partisan act, though it was also aimed at the completion of the National Assembly in accordance with Article 51 of the Constitution, so that people of Pakistan are not deprived of taking part in the executive decisions of the country through their representatives as enshrined in the Objectives Resolution”, he stated.

The president said that he did not want to indulge and engage himself or to dwell into such baseless accusations of constitutional violation attributed in the summary. He further remarked that it was needless to remind that a caretaker prime minister/set-up was merely responsible to ensure conducive conditions for the peaceful, fair and transparent holding of the general elections, within the framework of the Constitution and the timeline on which many quarters had expressed reservations.

“There are many cases being challenged and it is the responsibility of the State that the will and mandate of the people is respected by all,” he added. The president underlined that proposal in Para 14 of the summary was anachronistic because it was received in the night of 26th February, 2024. He said the prime minister had not returned the summary strictly in accordance with the Provisions of Article 48(1) of the Constitution for reconsideration.

The president stated that he fully realized that the Constitution of Pakistan must be implemented in letter and spirit, though it was not being done so in case of the existing electoral process. The president reiterated his stance about the provisions of the Constitution such as Article 51 and Clause 2 of Article 91 to be followed by all and given effect in letter and spirit.

“Of late the Election Commission of Pakistan is seized of the exercise contemplated by the Article 51 of the Constitution, the outcome of which was awaited and expected by the 21st day as envisaged in Article 91(2). However, till this time no decision has been made by the Commission,” he wrote.

The president concluded that keeping in view the mandate and implications of the timeline given in Article 91(2) and subject to his reservations and expecting the resolution of the issue of reserved seats before the 21st day, the National Assembly meeting was summoned on 29th February, 2024.

Earlier, after the refusal of President Arif Alvi to summon the National Assembly session, the NA Secretariat issued a notification on Thursday to hold the inaugural session of the lower house of parliament on Thursday, February 29 at 10am.

The notification was issued with the signatures of the assembly’s secretary general as per Article 91(2) of the Constitution after the caretaker prime minister took legal opinion from the Ministry of Law and Justice on the crucial matter and approved arrangements for the inaugural session. “Whereas the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs has intimated that on its request, the prime minister, after obtaining a legal opinion of the Ministry of Law and Justice, has been pleased to approve that arrangements for the first sitting of National Assembly may be made in terms of clause (2) of Article 91 of the Constitution,” the notification said. “Therefore, it is hereby informed that the National Assembly shall meet on Thursday (February 29) at 10am in the Parliament House,” the notification added.

In its legal opinion, the Ministry of Law and Justice told the president that it is mandatory to hold the inaugural session on 21st day of conduct of general election. The Article 91(2) says that the National Assembly must meet on the 21st day following the day on which a general election to the Assembly is held unless sooner summoned by the president.

However, the president refused to summon the National Assembly as required by the Constitution till, what he said, notification of members on seats reserved for women. The PMLN and PPP leaders termed the president’s act a breach of the Constitution. The federal government, in response to the president’s refusal, also apprised him that he could not delay the National Assembly session for any reason.

Separately, the NA Secretariat cancelled invitation cards for visitors galleries issued for the inaugural session owing to security reasons. “The invitation cards of visitors galleries for the inaugural session have been cancelled due to security reasons,” the NA Secretariat said in a late-night announcement. The MNAs-elect have been requested to keep their cards issued by the NA Secretariat with them, which are mandatory to enter the National Assembly hall.

Meanwhile, PMLN President Shehbaz Sharif, who is also the joint candidate of six parties for the prime ministership, said the upcoming government would take along all the national institutions in tackling challenges being faced by the country.

Addressing the PMLN parliamentary party meeting here, he announced that his party’s total strength in the National Assembly had reached 104. He said Nawaz Sharif always demonstrated patience and tolerance only for the sake of national interest despite injustices. “He faced all injustices but never resorted to violence against national institutions and also did not instigate his workers,” he added.

Shehbaz pointed out that ups and downs come in elections, as some people very close to Nawaz Sharif lost the elections. “How it can be called rigging despite the fact our favourites lost the elections but they (PTI) level allegations of rigging,” he said adding that could only be dubbed as fascism and nazism. Coming down hard on President Alvi, he said the head of state violated the Constitution like before and refused to summon the National Assembly session.

Nawaz Sharif told the meeting that Shehbaz Sharif was the best choice for the prime minister’s office in the present circumstances. He formally nominated Shehbaz Sharif for the prime ministership and Sardar Ayaz Sadiq as the National Assembly speaker.

While congratulating the newly-elected MNAs, he said the PMLN leaders and workers passed through great hardships and suffering while achieving success. He said he had not been able to understand the mentality of those elements who created the narrative of rigging all the time. He said the PMLN leadership suspended the election campaign in 2013 when a leader (Imran Khan) suffered an accident during a public meeting. “Then they created an uproar of rigging and 35 punctures,” he added.

He questioned where Saqib Nisar and the other judges of the Supreme Court, who along with some other players played a role in toppling his government, were. Nawaz said the next one to two years would be challenging for the government and then God willing, the country would come out of crises. “We will have to steer the country out of the difficulties,” he said adding the government would have to make difficult decisions to address the issues.

Later, the six-party coalition reiterated their commitment to move forward with consultation and consensus. PM-designate and PMLN President Shehbaz Sharif gave a dinner reception for the heads of the coalition and formally announced the name of Ayaz Sadiq as the NA speaker on behalf of the PMLN. Also, Chairman PPP Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari nominated Ghulam Mustafa Shah as the candidate for NA deputy speaker on behalf of his party. MNAs-elect belonging to PMLN, PPP, MQMP, BAP, IPP and PMLQ also attended the dinner.

It was decided that the coalition partners would decide the name of the chairman Senate and deputy chairman with consensus. It was also decided to form a four-member committee of the PPP and PMLN to seek votes for the presidential election and speaker National Assembly from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUIF), Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP), PML-Quaid and other parties. The committee comprises Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Rana Tanveer Hussain from the PMLN and Syed Naveed Qamar and Syed Khursheed Shah from the PPP. Bilawal, while addressing the dinner, presented proposals to the new government to implement a charter for economy, national consensus, electoral and judicial reforms.

Speaking to the media after the dinner reception, PMLN Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal said Shehbaz Sharif had been nominated as the joint candidate for the office of PM and Asif Ali Zardari as the president. He said confrontation was harmful to the country. “We will bear positive criticism by the opposition, but if the opposition spreads chaos, it will be dangerous for the country,” he said adding, “We will go to allies and opposition parties. We will also go to Maulana Fazlur Rehman and other parties.”

PPP leader Naveed Qamar said it was decided that all coalition partners would vote together for the nomination of constitutional offices. Mustafa Kamal of MQM-Pakistan said, “Let’s move the country forward and avoid politicising the national issues. The habit of raising objections for the sake of objections should end.” He added the MQM would support national reconciliation.

IPP President Abdul Aleem Khan said all the coalition parties had decided to support the candidates together. President BAP Khalid Magsi said all allies were together and “we will solve people’s problems together, which will be our top agenda.” Chaudhry Salik Hussain of the PMLQ said all the coalition partners wanted to focus on improving the economy.

In a related development, Central Ameer of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F Maulana Fazlur Rehman reached Islamabad from Peshawar on Wednesday to participate in the National Assembly session. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUIF) has six seats in the National Assembly, including two women members.

According to sources, the JUIF members would take the oath of membership in the inaugural NA session. Sources said that since the proceedings in the meeting would be limited to oath-taking, the remaining business of the house would be done later.

Maulana Fazl had decided in principle that his party MNAs would not cast votes in protest in the election for the president’s office, as his party’s size had been reduced through rigging in the general election. An informal meeting of the JUIF assembly members was held in Islamabad under the chairmanship of Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

According to JUIF Central Spokesperson Aslam Ghouri, it had been unanimously decided by the JUIF core committee that all members would participate in the meeting of the National Assembly and take the oath of their office but they would not take part in the election for the president in protest.