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After refusal by president, speaker calls NA session

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ISLAMABAD: National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Monday had to summon the maiden sitting of the lower house of parliament at 10am on Feb 29, after President Arif Alvi refused to summon the session on account of an ‘incomplete house’.

In response to a summary by the Parliamentary Affairs Division last week, the president said the lower house was not complete, so he could not summon the session as requested. His dilly-dallying also invited the ire of political parties, with the PML-N and PPP asking the president not to abuse his powers as the head of the state.

Observers believed he wanted to delay the session till the issuance of a notification by the Election Commission of Pakistan regarding the reserved seats of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), which the bulk of PTI-backed lawmakers have joined.

Under the Constitution, the first session of the National Assembly is required to be convened within 21 days after the general elections held on Feb 8. Section 91(2) of the Constitution says: “The National Assembly shall meet on the twenty-first day following the day on which a general election to the assembly is held, unless sooner summoned by the president.”

According to a senior official of the National Assembly Secretariat, the president is duty-bound to call the session of the NA within 21 days; otherwise, the secretariat itself could announce the session. He said the secretariat had made all necessary arrangements for the new assembly’s first session.

The NA secretariat official told that under the 18th Amendment the president was bound to call the NA session within 21 days.

He said that that clause was incorporated in the Constitution after late military dictator Pervez Mush­a­r­raf in 2002 had delayed convening the NA. He said an “incomplete” NA did not allow the president to halt its proceedings.

“The president is waiting for 10 reserved seats of women of SIC, but he has forgotten that more than that number of seats have been vacant as many returned candidates contested polls from more than one constituency,” he said.

Meanwhile, the media wing of the National Assembly Secretariat has invited mediapersons to cover the first session of the 16th National Assem­bly on Thursday.

ECP open hearing

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan has decided to hold an open hearing on the Sunni Ittehad Council’s (SIC) plea seeking allocation of the reserved seats in the national and provincial assemblies on Tuesday (today).

The decision was taken at a meeting of the commission held on Monday with Chief Election Com­m­i­ssioner Sikandar Sultan Raja in the chair. The ECP will also hold a hearing about the petition, filed by convener MQM-P, against the proposed allocation of seats to the SIC.

Last week, Moulvi Iqbal Haider also filed a petition, seeking to ‘restrain the political party Sunni Ittehad Council being treated as parliamentary party’. This petition along with other related petitions will also be taken up for hearing today.

These include the plea of Mehmood Ahmad Khan seeking to get certified copies of a merger between the PTI and the SIC and the affidavits submitted in favour of the SIC by the PTI-supported members of national provincial assemblies.

Nawaz’s plea

Meanwhile, the ECP adjourned the hearing on a petition filed by PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif regar­ding the NA-15 Man­sehra constituency till Tuesday.

Both Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer Barrister Jahangir Jadoon and independent candidate Gustasab Khan’s lawyer Babar Awan appeared before the bench. Mr Jadoon maintained that the returning officer’s report had not been given to them and that without reading the report, they could not give arguments.

To this, Babar Awan said that the report of RO was received by everyone. Gustasab Khan won with a lead of 25,000 votes and according to the law, if there was a difference of 25,000, then the recount could not be done. He said the ECP had stayed the issuance of notification of the returned candidate.

CEC Raja said the stay could not be extended for mere arguments as the ECP wanted to end the stay as soon as possible. The CEC directed Mr Jadoon to present arguments on Tuesday. CEC Raja said that an interim order would be issued on the request to end the stay, as the stay could not be postponed indefinitely.

Mr Sharif’s lawyer said the results of 125 polling stations were not included in Form 47, with the CEC Raja responding the RO had rejected the claim that the votes of 125 polling stations were not included in the report.

Advocate Babar Awan said that while compiling Form 47, no one went to the office of the returning officer. After hearing the arguments from both sides, the Election Commission adjourned the hearing and directed to give more arguments today (Tuesday).