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February 9, 2015

Deputy speaker’s vcacant slot creates catch-22 situation


February 9, 2015

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly has been in session for the last three and a half months and there are strong indications that it would continue till Senate election in March.
The reason for this uninterestingly long session is Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s inability to evolve consensus on a candidate for the vacant post of deputy speaker. The position has been lying unfilled since former deputy speaker Imtiaz Shahid Qureshi vacated it to become the law minister.
Constitutionally, the speaker or deputy speaker has to be elected in the same session if vacancy occurs when the assembly is in session or in the next session if the assembly is not in session. And this holds the speaker from proroguing the session as PTI’s indecision about who to tip for the post persists.
Imtiaz Shahid Qureshi resigned as deputy speaker when the assembly was not in session. The current session started on October 23, 2014 and is the first after his resignation. Months passed, even the year changed, but the assembly continues to be in session with few substantial items on the agenda. Some visitors and journalists have even lost the whole-session entry cards.
The speaker, just to keep the assembly in session, adjourned it for several weeks, at least on two occasions. The last break was for 23 days and when the session resumed on Friday last there was literally nothing on the agenda. Even that agenda was left incomplete, thanks to PTI’s internal wrangling.
“Adjourning the session for such long periods sends a wrong message and we, the parliamentary leaders, have conveyed our concern to the speaker,” said Qaumi Watan Party’s Sikandar Sherpao. “We have not witnessed such long breaks in previous assemblies,” he argued, adding that the session was being prolonged to avoid election for deputy speaker.
PTI has yet to achieve consensus on a candidate for the post of deputy speaker. And there are hardly any indications that they could agree on a candidate

before the Senate polls, scheduled for March 3.
“Though I have sent letter to the chief minister in connection with the deputy speaker’s election, we have arrived at the understanding that the position will be filled after the Senate elections,” said Speaker Asad Qaiser. Education Minister Muhammad Atif Khan, who is an influential PTI leader, also said deputy speaker would be elected after the Senate polls.
Sikandar Sherpao has serious objection to keeping the office of the deputy speaker vacant for so long. “Without the deputy speaker, the House is incomplete,” he contended.The 14-member PTI ‘likeminded group’ has been lobbying for this position, though its concerns were allayed to some extent by making its members Imtiaz Shahid Qureshi law minister and Dr Amjad Ali special assistant.
Mehmood Jan of the likeminded group, who hails from Peshawar, has been making efforts to be nominated for the post. He claimed his party chief Imran Khan also favoured him for the position. “Imran Khan has clearly said that Mehmood Jan will be candidate for the deputy speaker,” he asserted. “But I will accept whatever decision the party makes,” he said, showing his willingness to pull out of the contest.
Arif Yousaf, special assistant for law, is another aspirant for the post of the deputy speaker. Women lawmakers of PTI want a female MPA on the position as women have less representation in the government. However, the party has been indecisive.
“Everyone wishes to become a minister, adviser, speaker or deputy speaker or to secure any other office but the decision is made by the party,” Atif Khan said. “And as of now, we have not picked anyone for the office of deputy speaker,” he stressed.
The session is again resuming today.

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