ISLAMABAD: After finding no fault in the procedure adopted by the National Assembly speaker for accepting the resignations of PTI MNAs, the Supreme Court on Thursday advised the party to join the National Assembly.
The top court — during hearings of several cases — has time and again urged the Imran Khan-led party to return to parliament since its ouster from the government.
The PTI on September 13 moved the apex court against the September 6 order of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that struck down the party’s plea against “piecemeal” acceptance of its lawmakers’ resignations.
A two-judge bench of the SC comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ayesha Malik heard the petition today.
During today’s hearing, the top court said that the IHC has given a clear ruling on the phase-wise acceptance of MNAs’ resignations.
“The speaker has the legal right to accept the resignations of MNAs. Prima facie, if the speaker’s rights are infringed upon, it will attract Article 69,” the court said.
“Convince the court that the high court’s decision had some drawbacks,” it said, telling PTI’s counsel Faisal Chaudhry that the people elected his clients for a term of five years and the party should play its role in parliament.
“Your [PTI] real responsibility is to play your role in parliament. Millions of people have been affected by floods,” the CJP told the counsel, drawing light on the country’s grim situation.
CJP Bandial said that flood affectees do not have water to drink and people from foreign countries were coming to Pakistan to help them.
“You will also have to look at the country’s economic situation. Does the PTI have any idea how much it will cost to hold by-elections on 123 seats?” he asked.
The CJP added that IHC CJ Minallah issued his ruling after deep legal deliberations. “If the court intervenes, it will be difficult for the speaker to do the job.”
The apex court then directed the PTI’s counsel to apprise the bench after taking instructions from the party’s leadership.
CJP Bandial advised the PTI that they should not hurry in their quest to get their resignations accepted.
Justice Ayesha Malik also remarked that lawmakers can approach the court individually. She asked: “In what capacity are you demanding acceptance of resignations in one go?”
Then the CJP asked: “What is your real purpose? If elections are held for 123 seats, what benefit will PTI get from it?”
At this, PTI’s lawyer demanded that the by-elections be held in all 123 constituencies at the same time.
‘Pick and choose policy adopted to target PTI’
“This pick and choose policy is adopted to target PTI,” the lawyer added.
Then deputy speaker Qasim Suri had accepted the resignations of 123 PTI MNAs, the lawyer said and argued, “If the resignations are approved once, they cannot be verified again.”
The decision taken by Suri seems to be with the same intention as he did on the no-confidence motion, remarked the CJP
“No name is mentioned in Suri’s decision,” stated Justice Ayesha Malik.
“Tendering resignation is an individual act of a member, how can PTI come to court as a party?” she asked.
‘Prima facie, no mistake in speaker’s procedure’
The CJP asked, “Why do you want the court to issue a stay order on by-polls on the 11 National Assembly seats?”
The PTI’s counsel replied that elections cannot be held in selected constituencies.
“Have you ever asked the speaker why is he not confirming the resignations?” inquired the CJP.
The chief justice observed that they cannot interfere in the jurisdiction of the speaker.
“Every institution has its own limitation,” the CJP remarked.
Turnout in by-elections is low, CJP Bandial said, adding that expenses for by-elections in 123 constituencies at a time will be very high.
According to the Constitution, the first duty of elected members is to join the assembly, observed the CJP.
“It is possible that you will gain political advantage from the elections, but prima facie, the procedure adopted by the speaker is not wrong,” remarked the CJP.
Meanwhile, the court adjourned the case for an indefinite period.
Fawad responds to SC
In response to the SC’s remarks, PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry claimed that Pakistan’s economy has suffered a loss of billions of dollars due to the “regime change operation”.
The PTI leader was referring to his party’s claim that their government was overthrown by the US through a “regime change operation”, in which the present government also played a role.
“The Supreme Court asked whether PTI was aware of how much will 123 by-elections cost. Well, the Supreme Court has no idea that as a result of the regime change operation, Pakistan has already lost $5 billion so far in terms of currency alone.”