National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser said on Monday that he would abide by the law and rules in the matter pertaining to dissident lawmakers’ votes on a no-trust motion filed by the joint opposition against PM Imran last week.
Qaiser has come under fire this week, with the opposition terming his conduct “partisan” and demanding that he should not preside over the session on the fateful day of voting on the no-confidence resolution.
The reaction from the opposition parties had come in response to a controversial speech by Qaiser in Swabi in which he defended the premier and declared that PTI members would fight with full force the opposition’s move that he said would fail.
The NA speaker was today asked whether he had sought the advice of the National Assembly’s legislation branch on the potential rejection of votes cast by any lawmakers who cross the floor.
“Let me make this clear, whatever I will do will be in accordance with the law and rules. What the government and opposition are doing is not my concern,” he said.
“I have definitely sought legal opinions and it is my job to discuss this with legal experts,” Qaiser told reporters at the Parliament House,”
He, however, denied writing any letters to the NA legislation branch in this regard.
Qaiser’s comments follow days-long speculation and debate on the speaker’s authority to dismiss dissident lawmakers’ votes on the no-trust motion against PM Imran, with the issue first coming under the spotlight in the recent past when Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said during a press conference last week that the NA speaker had the right to disqualify members who “crossed floor” and that “no one could challenge that”.
The ruling PTI’s members have defended this argument on basis of Article 63-A of the Constitution, which states that a parliamentarian can be disqualified on grounds of defection if he “votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the parliamentary party to which he belongs, in relation to election of the prime minister or chief minister; or a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or a money bill or a Constitution (amendment) bill”.
Some legal experts, however, have disagreed with the government’s interpretation of the Article, highlighting that it did not authorise the speaker to bar a lawmaker from voting but only to penalise a dissident lawmaker after the voting ended.
No-trust motion against NA speaker
The speaker was also asked today about the opposition’s announcement of submitting a no-confidence motion against him as well, to which he replied that it was the opposition’s constitutional and legal right to file the motion.
“I welcome it (the decision),” he said.
To a question about the scheduling of the session for the no-trust vote against PM Imran, Qaiser said he had been consulting that NA Secretariat on the matter and assured that the session would be called within the stipulated time and according to the Constitution.
He said the date for the session would be finalised in a day or two.