NA-122 verdict leaves ruling party on sticky ground

The re-poll order for NA-122 is the second major blow for the PML-N which considers Lahore its political bastion


Irfan Ghauri August 23, 2015
National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq. PHOTO: ONLINE

ISLAMABAD:


The Punjab election tribunal decision for NA-122 has put the ruling party on a weaker moral ground, though it would not make any major difference in parliament since the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) enjoys a comfortable majority in the lower house of parliament if the need arises to elect a new speaker.


Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, who has been unseated by the tribunal on a petition of his rival candidate, Imran Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, says he will challenge in the Supreme Court the tribunal’s decision which has procedural flaws. However, he has indicated that he will step down as speaker since he is no longer member of the National Assembly.

The re-poll order for NA-122 is the second major blow for the PML-N which considers Lahore its political bastion. In May, this year, a similar decision was given by another tribunal for NA-125, the constituency won by Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique. However, the decision was challenged in the Supreme Court which subsequently issued a stay order. A final adjudication in the case is still awaited.

Political observers say the NA-122 verdict will help Imran regain the ground his party had lost following the judicial commission’s report earlier this month which had rejected PTI’s allegations of systematic rigging in the 2013 elections. Before launching his long march and subsequent marathon dharna, Imran had called for vote audit in four National Assembly constituencies – and NA-122 and NA-125 were among them.

In the bicameral legislature of Pakistan, the speaker is elected by a majority vote by members of the lower house who also elect the leader of the house, or the prime minister. The speaker also acts as president of Pakistan in the absence of the president, and being the custodian of the house his office warrants neutrality irrespective of party affiliation.

Under Article 53 of the Constitution, the National Assembly cannot function unless it elects a speaker and his/her deputy. “After a general election, the National Assembly shall, at its first meeting and to the exclusion of any other business, elect from amongst its members a speaker and a deputy speaker and, so often as the office of speaker or deputy speaker becomes vacant, the assembly shall elect another member as speaker or, as the case may be, deputy speaker,” it reads.

A sub-clause of Article 53 also stipulates that in the absence of the speaker, or his office falling vacant, his/her deputy can act as speaker. There is no timeframe given in the Constitution to elect a new speaker, in case of the office falling vacant. The PML-N will have no problems with the functioning of the house since it has an elected deputy speaker to fill in for the speaker – for the time being.

Officially, the PML-N has yet not said whether Sadiq would resign or stay on if the Supreme Court issued a stay order against the tribunal decision, but some within the ruling party believe the speaker would not be able to command the respect which his office demands even if the apex court restores status quo.

“The top leadership would make a final decision. However, I personally believe that after this decision Speaker Ayaz Sadiq does not enjoy the respect his office demands,” a top PML-N leader said while talking to The Express Tribune.

Requesting anonymity, he said the tribunal has ordered re-poll pointing out procedural irregularities in the 2013 elections, but it has not disqualified Sadiq from contesting elections. “The best option for Sadiq is to quit to allow his party to elect another speaker. Sadiq can return to the assembly after contesting re-election,” he added.

ECP to de-notify Sadiq

Officials at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) told The Express Tribune that the commission would de-notify Ayaz Sadiq as member of the National Assembly once it received an official intimation from the tribunal. However, it wasn’t clear if the notification will be issued before Monday since Saturday and Sunday are official holidays.

“The chief election commissioner and all four members of the commission have to sign the order before the notification is issued. However, in case of a stay order from the Supreme Court, the status quo is restored and the notification is taken back immediately,” said an official of ECP’s law wing.

 

Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2015.

COMMENTS (7)

FJ | 6 years ago | Reply @Lolz: My friend I'm not a legal expert and neither belong to PML-N. I joined PTI in 1999 as an ordinary member but disappointed with the politics of agitation after the 2013 elections, I am now a critic within the party. Clearly you being a law student understand law better than me, please explain why is there no disqualification if rigging was proved?
Lolz | 6 years ago | Reply @FJ: Dude, these are technical issues and if you would like to understand, come over to my law college. I see, you are just preaching the same confusion that most of PML-N workers started after Saad Rafique's case or perhaps you have been the victim of those confusions.
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