PTI MNA resignations: NA speaker faces a tough choice

Source: Published in Current Affairs on Monday, September 29, 2014

With the country firmly in the grip of a political crisis, National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq faces a tough choice-

The National Assembly Secretariat is already awash with the uncertainty surrounding the resignations from parliament of 30 Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNAs.

But despite pressure to end the impasse swiftly and amicably, the speaker may yet have to defer a decision in the matter.

On October 5, the speaker is due to attend the 60th annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Conference in Cameroon. The week-long conference promises to keep the speaker away from his duties in the capital until at least October 11.

If this were any other event, the speaker may have sent in his regrets. But because Pakistan is expected to host the next CPA conference, Mr Sadiq’s attendance is of utmost importance, as he is expected to issue invitations to the next conference during this visit.

Ayaz Sadiq may have to cancel visit to Commonwealth conference on Oct 5

Meanwhile, Mr Sadiq is also caught between making a decision on the already-submitted PTI resignations and acceding to requests to delay their acceptance, so that a political solution could be negotiated.

An opposition jirga, which has been trying to mediate between the protesting parties and the government, recently called on the speaker and urged him to hold off on a decision on the resignations. Jamaat-i-Islami Emir Sirajul Haq, who leads the group of mediators, has already told the speaker that processing the resignations at this point would only deepen the divide between the two sides and may exacerbate the standoff.

The speaker has maintained that unless he could personally verify each member’s intent to resign -- as stipulated in Rule 43(2)B of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of the National Assembly, 2007 -- he would not proceed.

However, the PTI, apprehensive of moves aiming at dividing the party and already wary because of an apparent rebellion by three MNAs who have declined to resign, has refused to adhere to a schedule for meetings issued by the speaker’s office and says that since they submitted their resignations en masse, they will appear together to confirm their intent as well.

The speaker has already been stood up by party chairman Imran Khan, who missed an appointment with Mr Sadiq on Thursday.

However, in view of the gravity of the situation it is also possible that the speaker could be asked by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to shelve his visit.

“It seems the NA speaker will not take his decision on resignations of PTI members before Eidul Azha, which falls on October 6. If he leaves for the Common­wealth conference the issue will be further delayed,” a senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader told Dawn.

The speaker has already made it clear that he will stick to the law and the Constitution in dealing with the issue of the resignations.

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