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Pakistan NA session adjourned without tabling of no-trust motion against Imran Khan

PML(N) president Shehbaz Sharif said that the speaker had violated the rules of procedures by conducting proceedings as 'a PTI worker'

While an impending no-confidence motion moved by the opposition in the National Assembly of Pakistan against Prime Minister Imran Khan had been occupying news headlines for weeks, the parliament of the country today adjourned its sessions till 28 March without tabling of the resolution.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Shireen Mazari, Asad Umar and Ali Muhammad Khan of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) were among those attending today’s session as was the Grand Democratic Alliance’s, Fehmida Mirza. Among the opposition leaders, of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and PPP co-chair Asif Ali Zardari, were present too.

Over 150 opposition and around 50 treasury members reportedly attended the session. The exact numbers could not be determined.

After the session’s commencement with the recitation of the Qur’an and prayers for late MNA Khayal Zaman, former president Rafiq Tarar and Senator Rehman Malik. However, NA speaker Asad Qaiser adjourned the session in light of the parliamentary convention that the first sitting after the death of an MNA (the equivalent of an MP in India) is limited to prayers for the soul of the departed and tributes fellow wish to pay them.

Qaiser stated that according to tradition, the agenda is deferred to the next day when a member of the lower house passes. “This has happened for years,” he said, adding that this had happened a total of 24 times in the past. He again reiterated that he would conduct proceedings “as per rules and procedures” after which he adjourned the session till 4 PM on 28 March.

The NA Secretariat had yesterday issued a 15-point “Orders of the Day” for the NA session, which included the no-confidence resolution.

Pakistan Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, who had earlier said that there was no plan to adjourn the session, took to Twitter to state that “nothing would happen” during today’s sitting.

The opposition had submitted the motion and requisition for the session to the NA Secretariat on 8 March. Under the Constitution of Pakistan, the speaker was bound to hold the session within 14 days. However, he did not summon the session until 21 March, the 14th day, which is now set to commence from today.

Voting on the will be held at least three to seven days after it has been laid before the NA.

Pakistan opposition protests

Addressing a press conference outside the parliament house shortly after the session was adjourned, Shehbaz launched a scathing attack on Qaiser, calling him a “stooge” of Prime Minister Khan.

The PML-N president said that Qaiser violated the rules of procedures by conducting proceedings as “a PTI worker”. He stated that the motion and requisition for the session were submitted on 8 March and, under the rules, the NA speaker was supposed to summon the session within 14 days. “This was a constitutional obligation and he violated the constitution by not doing this,” he said.

Shehbaz also called for the speaker to be tried under Article 6 of the constitution, which deals with high treason.

“After the fateha khwani, I stood up to speak on a point of order but my microphone was not turned on,” he claimed. He accepted that parliamentary convention dictated that the session would be limited to prayers for the departed, but added that today was “an important day”.

“The constitution and the law are above tradition and voting should have been allowed […] tradition aside, the speaker should have taken up the motion [but] he did not listen and left.”

Shehbaz said that if the same were to be done during the next session, the opposition would use all “constitutional, political and legal” options to take the no-trust move forward. Later in a tweet, he said that the NA speaker “continues to trample upon constitutional provisions”.

“This partisan behaviour does not suit the custodian of the house. Adjournment of NA session is part of desperate efforts to disrupt the no-confidence process,” he said. “You cannot stop the inevitable through such underhand tactics!”

Bilawal claimed that the premier was “fleeing the pitch” and reiterated that Qaiser had violated the constitution. However, the PPP chairman asserted that opposition parties were united and would not let the premier “run away”.

“The no-trust motion is going to be our democratic weapon. We will move towards free and fair elections,” he said, adding that the prime minister had lost “his majority and government”. He later added that Qaiser had provided a “weak excuse” to avoid tabling the no-trust move. “Imran can’t run forever. The PM has no sportsman sprit and cannot face defeat with grace. The once great kaptaan will go down like a rat on a sinking ship,” he said.

Separately, Foreign Minister of Pakistan Qureshi demanded an apology from Shehbaz for his tirade against the NA speaker. “The words you have used against Asad Qaiser are inappropriate and I want you to retract the remarks immediately,” he said, adding that the speaker was responsible for conducting proceedings in whatever manner he sees fit. He also refuted claims that the government was “running away” from the no-confidence motion. “We will deal with it in a democratic, political, and legal way.”

Responding to a question from a journalist, the minister that the opposition was set to receive another surprise on 27 March.

‘Ruckus if is not tabled today’

Opposition leaders had also gathered for a meeting prior to the session during which, according to the PPP, “important instructions” were given to lawmakers.

Zardari, who was hounded by reporters as he made his way inside the Parliament House, had appeared to be confident.

“All eyes are on you. You have previous experience. How confident are you?” asked one reporter.

“Insha’Allah, if my Maula wants, 100 per cent,” he replied. He had added that the opposition would “create a ruckus” if the NA speaker did not allow the motion to be tabled. He had also brushed aside concerns that “undemocratic powers” could take advantage of the situation. “We have a strategy for that: If you are so interested, then you are most welcome.”

His son, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, was also all smiles and told reporters that the no-confidence motion had been included in today’s agenda. “Now on, the people will win and the ‘selected’ will face defeat. Winning and losing are in the hands of God [but] we are working hard,” he said.

Asked what would happen in case the motion is not taken up, he said: “See how we manage it […] we are completely prepared.”

Shehbaz said that the opposition would exercise its to table the motion during today’s session. However, if the motion is not tabled, then we will consult among ourselves, he said.

Guidelines issued for MNAs

Meanwhile, the NA speaker had on Thursday issued guidelines for MNAs in view of strict security arrangements being made for the session.

According to the speaker’s notification,

No visitor/guest/security guard of the ministers/parliamentarians will be allowed in the precincts of the parliament house and it would be advisable to restrict them up to D-Chowk, in front of the parliament lodges.

To avoid traffic congestion, a shuttle service will operate between parliament lodges, government hostels and the parliament house to facilitate members of parliament, the order said.

It said personal drivers of parliamentarians were required to park their vehicles at the designated parking area and not to leave the vehicle unattended. Security agencies deputed at the parliament house have also been instructed to make arrangements accordingly and ensure the implementation of the speaker’s instructions.

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