Pakistan’s National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has accepted the resignations of another 43 lawmakers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, virtually eliminating former prime minister Imran Khan’s party from the parliament, sources said on Tuesday.
The development comes a day after 45 lawmakers of Khan’s party collectively withdrew their resignations from the National Assembly. They also requested the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that they should not be denotified if the speaker approves their resignations.
However, the move failed to materialise because the speaker approved another 43 resignations and sent them to the ECP for their de-notification, sources said.
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After this, Khan‘s party was left with only two members in the National Assembly, the lower house, other than about two dozen dissidents who had refused to resign. The resignations of two lawmakers were not accepted because they had requested for leave.
However, the ECP has so far not de-notified the lawmakers while they already requested it to look into their plea to pardon them from de-notification.
PTI reacted angrily and its leader Fawad Chaudhry said that the purpose of return to the parliament in “limited numbers” was to oust dissident Raja Riaz from the position of the opposition leader. He said already 40 per cent of National Assembly seats were vacant and the “only solution to this crisis is elections”.
So far it is not clear if the government would hold elections on the vacant seats only or call general elections before time which are otherwise scheduled to be held after August 16 when the current parliament would complete its five-year tenure.
At least 123 lawmakers of Khan’s party had decided to quit immediately after he was removed from power through a no-trust vote in April last year. However, Speaker Ashraf had accepted resignations of only 11 of them in July last while insisting that the remaining lawmakers would be summoned individually for verification.
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In an unexpected move, the speaker last week accepted 70 more resignations, including 69 of PTI lawmakers and one of Sheikh Rashid of Awami Muslim League – an ally of Khan.
The move jolted the PTI which feared that its absence from the parliament would deprive it from say in the appointment of a caretaker prime minister to organise general elections scheduled to be held after August this year.
Khan ordered his party’s remaining lawmakers to withdraw their resignations to force the government to let his party become the main opposition party in the parliament.
His party has already dissolved the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to press the federal government to call early elections.
So far the government has refused to announce the snap polls, saying that election for the dissolved assemblies would be held within mandatory 90 days and that of the federal parliament after 60 days of the end of the current term in mid-August.