Speaker 'convenes' new National Assembly session on Feb 29 after president's refusal

A new constitutional crisis is looming over the country as the National Assembly's outgoing Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has “decided” to convene the inaugural session of the new lower house of parliament on February 29, well-placed sources confirmed Monday.

The development came moments after President Arif Alvi rejected a summary to summon the NA session, sources said, in which MNAs-elect will take oath.

Alvi believed that the NA was incomplete sans the allocation of all the reserved seats to the political parties. 

While the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has allocated reserved seats to political parties, it has not awarded reserved quota to the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed independent candidates joined their ranks.

The ECP, however,  said that the matter of SIC reserved seats is “pending before the commission”.

The PML-N-led alliance, who claimed winning the majority in the February 8 general elections, was of the view that the NA session must be called within 21 days after the elections, what their leadership said as per the Constitution.

The sources said that the decision was made during an emergency meeting headed by NA speaker and attended by the officials of the NA Secretariat and constitutional experts.

The NA speaker decided to call the session under Article 91 (2), the sources added.

There was no constitutional hurdle in summoning the NA session despite the president’s denial, constitutional experts briefed the speaker.

The president was bound by the law to convene the NA session within 21 days after the elections, they added. The inaugural session had to be held after 21 days, the Constitution deadline, under any circumstances, the legal experts added.

The NA Secretariat also consulted with the ministries of Law and Parliamentary Affairs.

Meanwhile, PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said the head of the state did not have room to put conditions on calling the NA session.

Taking to her X handle, formerly known as Twitter, she said: “Article 91 (2) provides that the National Assembly shall have to meet on the 21st day on which the general election to the assembly is held, unless sooner summoned by the president.

“It means explicitly that the powers of the President under Article 54 (1) is restricted to a maximum of 21 days with respect to the inaugural session of the NA.”

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt