LAHORE: Lahore High Court (LHC) Justice Shahid Karim on Friday declared “null and void” a notification about acceptance of resignations of 72 Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) National Assembly Members (MNAs) by the National Assembly speaker.
The PTI MNAs, including Fawad Chaudhry, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pervaiz Khattak, Shafqat Mehmood, Riaz Fatiyana and others had challenged through their counsel Barrister Ali Zafar the acceptance of their resignations as the MNAs. In the petitions, the lawmakers maintained that the speaker did not listen to their viewpoint before accepting their resignations.
Justice Shahid Karim, while announcing the verdict, nullified the notifications of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
Earlier, the LHC had suspended the ECP notification that de-notified 43 MNAs of the PTI. Barrister Zafar argued before the court that en masse letters of resignation were secured by the PTI from its 123 members of National Assembly, including the petitioner MNAs.
The petitioner MNAs acted on the directions of the party and for the political objective only for arriving at an agreement with the opposition parties for holding fresh elections, said their petitions. The move was aimed at forming a new government with the real mandate of the people of Pakistan, and giving the nation an opportunity to get rid of the current impasse.
The resignations were subject to acceptance resignations of all 123 MNAs belonging to the PTI. Barrister Zafar informed the court that the petitioner MNAs had, in fact, withdrawn their en masse resignations, which was announced on TV and also sent in writing to the NA speaker on January 23, 2023.
However, in an attempt to debar one of the petitioner MNAs from becoming the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, the speaker issued a back-dated letter dated January 22, 2023 (which was a Sunday) and accepted their resignations.
Barrister Zafar argued that the speaker could not accept the resignations of any MNA without following the three-pronged procedure, provided in the Constitution, and declared several times earlier by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and high courts in various judgements, namely (i) en masse resignations cannot be accepted and that each MNA has to give an application in his own hand writing (ii) the resignations must be voluntary and intended to be accepted as resignations and (iii) for the verification of the resignations, the speaker must hold an individual hearing with each MNA, who wishes to resign.
Barrister Zafar told the court that in the case of petitioner MNAs, the three-pronged procedure was totally disregarded by the NA speaker with mala fide intention. He argued that initially it was the speaker who refused to accept the ruling of Qasim Suri (the then deputy speaker), who accepted the en masse resignations of the PTI MNAs. While refusing to accept the deputy speaker’s ruling, the NA speaker himself stressed that the deputy speaker did not follow the procedure provided in the Constitution and upheld by the Supreme Court. The speaker, thereafter, officially informed each PTI MNA that the decision on their resignations would be taken after holding individual hearing with them.
Barrister Zafar informed the court that when the delegation of PTI went to the speaker on December 22, 2022, he again informed the MNAs that he would call everyone individually and then verify their resignations. However, when the speaker learnt that that PTI MNAs had decided to return to the National Assembly, the speaker took a 160-degree turn-around and proceeded onto accepting the resignations en masse through a back-dated letter without even following the prescribed procedure.
He argued that the NA speaker’s action was not only illegal in the eyes of law but also contrary to the Constitution. After hearing the arguments of Barrister Ali Zafar, the court of Justice Shahid Karim disposed of the petitioner MNAs’ petitions while setting aside the speaker’s decision for accepting en masse resignations as well as ECP’s notification of de-seating the MNAs.
Speaking to media outside the LHC, PTI lawyer Barrister Ali Zafar said that the court had given a “historic decision”.
“With this decision, the [country’s] political crisis will also be resolved,” he declared.
He said that the court had accepted the petition against the de-notification of PTI MNA, who would now appear before the speaker.
He further added that after appearing in the inquiry, the MNAs would retract their resignations.
“Once the ECP’s de-notification is retracted, these MNA’s will be able to join the National Assembly,” he shared. He further said that with the reversal of the resignations, PTI Chairman Imran Khan would be able to “play his role for the nation as the opposition leader in Parliament.”
“It is hoped that the speaker will complete the inquiry as per the law and allow the PTI MNAs to return [to the assembly],” he said.