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Saturday April 20, 2024

Threat to speaker: Opposition wants to prevent four-day delay in voting on no-trust resolution

By Tariq Butt
March 20, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The opposition’s threat to Speaker Asad Qaiser--claiming that it will move against him if he did not follow the rules on Monday-- is meant to prevent a delay of at least four days in voting on the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The opposition fears that the speaker will adjourn the first day of the requisitioned session on March 21 after offering Fateha for the deceased Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) member of the National Assembly, Haji Khayal Zaman.

However, it is a parliamentary tradition to adjourn the day’s sitting after offering prayers for a departed MP. It is not provided in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly.

If the speaker also does this in the current situation on the very first day of the requisitioned session, the voting deadline will fall on March 31 as there will be no sessions for at least three days --Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday-- which have been declared holidays due to the OIC conference.

On the very first day of the session, the opposition will try to seek the leave of the House to table the no-trust motion and move it on the same day.

Then, a voting period of not less than three days and not more than seven days will begin from March 21. The opposition’s effort is to get the resolution moved on Monday so that such a period begins from that day. In such a case, the last day of the voting will be March 28.

Rule 37 says the leave to move the resolution will be asked for after questions, if any, and before other business entered in the Orders of the Day is taken up [on the first day of the requisition session]. When the resolution is moved, the speaker may, after considering the state of business, allot a day or days for the discussion on the motion.

The resolution will not be voted upon before the expiry of three days or later than seven days from the day on which it is moved in the National Assembly, which will not be prorogued until the motion is disposed of or, if leave is granted, the resolution has been voted upon.

The rule disallows the speaker to prorogue the requisitioned session unless the no-confidence motion has been dealt with.

It was up to the speaker to summon the session requisitioned by the opposition parties for voting on the no-trust resolution any time within 14 days of the receipt of the request. But he decided to avail the entire time given in the rules.

The speaker has tried to consume the maximum amount of time so that the government gets ample opportunity and time to use its sources and resources to attempt wooing back its estranged members and possible defectors. The motion has been signed only by the opposition parties’ members and no ruling coalition MP is included among them.

The voting will be held through division and everyone will be duly identified. The government will ask its members to stay away from the voting and leave it to the sponsors of the motion to produce at least 172 members in favour of the resolution.

Rule 46(4) says the powers of the speaker can’t be limited to summon a requisitioned session of the National Assembly to meet at any time. The defection clause will apply to the PTI members, who would be voting in favour of the no-confidence motion.

But that stage will come later after they have cast their votes. The speaker can send references against them to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which has the actual authority to disqualify them. Asad Qaiser cannot stop such members from supporting the resolution.

There are not very many instances when MPs have been disqualified by the ECP on the charge of defection. Generally, such cases keep dragging on for a long time. The defection clause applies only when a member votes in a no-trust motion or confidence resolution, constitutional amendment or federal budget against the policy of his or her party.