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PTI Divided Over Mass Resignations from Parliament

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of PTI Chairman Imran Khan. Aamir Qureshi—AFP

While one group in the former ruling party favors quitting assemblies to ‘force’ early elections, another does not wish to leave ‘open field’ for rival parties

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Sunday appeared divided over whether or not its lawmakers should resign en masse from the National Assembly, with one group coming out firmly against remaining in a Lower House led by their political rivals, and another maintaining that it is tantamount to giving ‘free hand’ to their opposition.

Addressing media after a meeting of the PTI’s core committee on Sunday afternoon, former information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that he believed all members of the party should resign from every assembly in the country. “We will start off by resigning from the National Assembly,” he said. “And if Shahbaz Sharif’s nomination papers are accepted, then we will tender our resignations tomorrow,” he added, linking the resignations to Sharif’s election as prime minister.

The PTI had earlier raised objections to the former opposition’s nomination of Shahbaz Sharif as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan, noting he had a pending corruption case of Rs. 16 billion against him. Fawad said it would be “unfortunate” to impose a “foreign, selected, and imported government and on top of that, make Shahbaz Sharif the head of the government.” However, shortly after Fawad’s interaction with the press, the NA Secretariat rejected PTI’s objections and accepted Sharif’s candidacy.

Along with Fawad, PTI ally Sheikh Rashid Ahmed—of the Awami Muslim League—has also claimed that the “best option” was for the party to resign from the assemblies and begin mass protests that would “force” the new government to proceed toward early elections. According to Fawad, most PTI lawmakers have already submitted their resignations to the party chairman.

No resignations yet

However, while Fawad and Rashid are advocating mass resignations, other PTI leaders have claimed the majority of the party is not in favor of this step, as it would allow the former opposition “free hand” to make many appointments in the coming months that could impact electoral results.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the PTI’s candidate for prime minister against Sharif, told a private broadcaster on Sunday night that while the party’s core committee had discussed the issue of “mass resignations,” it had not yet reached any final decision on the matter. “The former prime minister has decided to call a meeting of the party’s parliamentary committee for tomorrow at 12 p.m.,” he said. “The opinion of those who are standing by him in these tough times will be sought. A final decision will be taken after that meeting,” he added.

“Whatever Imran Khan wants will happen. He will take the decision and whatever the decision is, will be accepted by all,” he said, adding that this did not mean Khan did not listen to his party’s opinions. “A clear majority of the party members think that we should protest inside the assembly and also make contact with the public outside,” he said.

Similarly, former minister of state for parliamentary affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said that 95 percent of the PTI’s members from Parliament were against resigning from the assemblies. “While a resignation could be a political tool for any politician, but resigning from the assembly at this moment of time means giving a free hand to the Opposition,” he told media.

By-elections in case of resignations

Both the PPP and PMLN, who would likely be coalition partners in the next government, have said that if the PTI chooses to resign en masse, authorities would hold by-elections against the vacant seats. However, they added, it was unlikely this step would ever occur, as a majority of PTI lawmakers did not support this.

On Saturday, Khan was ousted as prime minister of Pakistan through a successful no-confidence motion, the first such ouster in the country’s history. In total, 174 members supported the no-confidence vote against the 172 needed in the 371-member House.

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