National Assembly Speaker Raja Parvez Ashraf has said that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) delegation wanted the resignations of its lawmakers to be accepted in one go, but he would follow rules and regulations.

Speaking to the media after a meeting with PTI delegation on Thursday, he pointed out that under Article 64 of the Constitution, the resignation should first and foremost be handwritten.

“Once it is received, the speaker will meet with the member to ascertain whether or not the resignation was submitted under duress,” he added.

He also highlighted that several PTI lawmakers had moved the courts and claimed that the PTI had decided to use the move to pressure the government, while some had submitted leave applications.

Speaker Ashraf advised the PTI to return to the assembly, saying that their voice “would be more effective” in parliament.

“You are senior people. I expect you to come to parliament. I assure you that as speaker, I will give you the full opportunity to speak. Parliament is a forum where everyone comes together.”

He said that at the end of the meeting, the PTI delegation said it would consult the party regarding the points raised today. He noted that the PTI desired early elections.

“We can only talk about this when you come to the House,” he said as he again advised the PTI to return to parliament. “We need to discuss all issues in parliament.”

The NA speaker asserted that he only looked at the Constitution and the rules when accepting resignations, reiterating that lawmakers were required to prove that it was a “voluntary act”. He also offered to write another letter to the lawmakers for verifying their resignations.

He termed then-deputy speaker Qasim Suri’s acceptance of the resignations to be “unconstitutional”, saying that the matter was of utmost importance as it concerned the people’s mandate.

THE ACCEPTABLE WAY: On the other hand, Asad Qaiser, who led the PTI’s delegation, said that the one-by-one acceptance of resignations was “not acceptable under any circumstances.”

Speaking to the media after the meeting, the former NA speaker said, “One MNA will come, [then] the rest will go somewhere outside [of the city and] they will call the second [MNA] after 15-20 days. This will take time [so], this would not happen.”

He asserted that the party’s resignations should be accepted collectively.

Referring to the acceptance of the resignations of 11 PTI MNAs, Qaiser termed it to be a “political decision” by the NA speaker as “he thought that they were weak constituencies”.

Noting that Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had invited the party to return to parliament, Qaiser termed his tone “threatening”.

He asserted that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab assemblies, where the PTI is in power, would be dissolved.

Meanwhile, Amir Dogar clarified that PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Secretary General Asad Umar and PTI KP President Pervez Khattak were originally supposed to attend today’s meeting.

However, the PTI chief called all three to his Zaman Park residence in Lahore for a “very important meeting”, he said.

THE MEETING: Earlier, a delegation of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MNAs met National Assembly Speaker Raja Parvez Ashraf to discuss the issue of resignations.

Led by former speaker Asad Qaiser, the delegation called on Parvez Ashraf at Parliament House amid talks of the PTI’s possible return to the assembly.

The delegation included Qasim Suri, Amir Dogar, Dr Shabbir Hussain, Ataullah, Fahim Khan and Tahir Iqbal.

During the meeting, Speaker Ashraf said that “in politics, doors are not closed; there should be links between politicians”. 

He said that all the PTI lawmakers would be summoned individually. 

The meeting was arranged after PTI former chief whip Amir Dogar’s phone call to Speaker Ashraf to hold talks over the matter of resignations.

The speaker welcomed the meeting, saying that dialogues are the only solution in a parliamentary democracy.

However, he said that the verification of PTI lawmakers’ resignation would still be subject to one-by-one meetings.

On Wednesday, the NA speaker had said that the PTI delegation did not come to meet him and asked for a meeting today at 11:30am.

“Dogar told me that some of the PTI leaders wanted to meet me regarding their resignations; however, I told him that I would meet all of them separately and not in groups,” added Speaker Ashraf.

On Wednesday, Shah Mehmood Qureshi said they are willing to play a role in parliament, but the government is not ready to commit seriously.

The PTI leader made the remarks while reacting to Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s statement against PTI chief Imran Khan.

Bilawal, addressing a gathering in Garhi Khuda Bakhsh held to mark the 15th death anniversary of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, asked the PTI chief to return to parliament as neither he nor his party “could bear” what’s coming to them.

The PTI MNAs had resigned en masse after PTI Chairman Imran Khan was voted out from the prime minister’s office in April and have yet to return to the House.

The PTI had announced mass resignations from the National Assembly in April, a day after party chief Imran Khan’s ouster as the prime minister through a no-confidence vote and shortly before Shehbaz Sharif was elected as his successor.

On July 28, the National Assembly speaker accepted the resignations of only 11 PTI lawmakers who had resigned after the vote of no confidence against the former PM.

The PTI had first challenged the move in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on August 1, contesting that it was “unsustainable”. The IHC, however, had dismissed the petition on September 6.

The party then approached the Supreme Court, praying it to set aside the IHC order, terming it “vague, cursory, and against the law”. A decision on the PTI’s plea in the apex court is still pending.

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