Speaker follows ‘tradition’ by suspending session after fateha had been offered for deceased MNA
National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Friday adjourned a session requisitioned by the opposition to table a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan, saying the resolution will be tabled when the session resumes on Monday, March 28, at 4 p.m.
The much-awaited session—pending since the opposition requisitioned it on March 8—was wrapped up almost immediately after it started with the recitation of the holy Quran. Per tradition, Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri offered fateha for Khayal Zaman, a PTI lawmaker from Hangu who lost his last month, as well as victims of recent terror attacks across Pakistan.
“Per tradition of this House, whenever a respectable member passes away, the session is adjourned till the next [working] day in their honor,” Qaiser said, as he wrapped up the session. Noting that this tradition had been followed nine times in the 12th assembly; four times in the 13th assembly; six times in the 14th assembly; and five times in the current assembly, he said he would resume his duties as speaker on Monday with the resumption of the session.
The NA, as a consequence, did not take up any of the 15 points that had been placed on the agenda by the Secretariat, including the no-trust motion against P.M. Khan.
According to the opposition, 159 of its 162 members were in attendance for the requisitioned session. The no-confidence resolution against P.M. Khan was signed by 152.
Addressing media after the session was adjourned, opposition leaders said the speaker had acted as expected and warned that they would not tolerate any further delays. Claiming that Qaiser had violated rules of procedures by conducting proceedings as a “PTI worker,” Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif noted that a requisition for the session had been submitted on March 8 and per law it had to be summoned within 14 days.
“This was a constitutional obligation and he violated the Constitution by not doing this,” he added. Qaiser, last week, said the session could not be summoned within 14 days as Parliament House was being utilized for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Council of Foreign Ministers meeting and there was “no other suitable building” for the purpose in the federal capital.
“After the fateha khwani, I stood up to speak on a point of order but my microphone was not turned on,” Shahbaz claimed, adding that while it was parliamentary convention to adjourn sessions after prayers for the departed, the no-confidence motion was not an “every day” occurrence.
“The Constitution and the law is above tradition and voting should have been allowed,” he said, describing Qaiser as a “stooge” of the prime minister. He warned that if the no-trust motion was not tabled for deliberations on March 28, the opposition would use all “constitutional, political and legal” options to ensure it was taken forward.
Similarly, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari accused the prime minister of “running away from the competition” and alleged Qaiser had violated the Constitution. “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.”
On Wednesday, amidst mounting accusations from the opposition of Qaiser acting in a “biased” manner, the speaker had clarified that he would act in accordance with law and would run the assembly’s proceedings as per Article 95 of the Constitution. In a posting on Twitter, he said that as the “custodian” of the National Assembly, he would fulfil “constitutional obligations” and proceed in accordance with rule 37 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007.
According to Article 95, a resolution of no-confidence shall not be voted upon before the expiration of three days and not later than seven days, from the day the resolution is moved in the NA. If the resolution is passed by a majority of the total membership of the House, the prime minister ceases to hold office. As per the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, the Assembly session cannot be prorogued until the resolution of no-confidence is disposed of.