Maiden Session Of New National Assembly To Be Held Today

President Arif Alvi summons the session with reservations and responds to caretaker prime minister's summary, raising questions over the tone and tenor adopted

Maiden Session Of New National Assembly To Be Held Today

The maiden session of the new National Assembly is expected to be convened today after President Dr Arif Alvi summoned the session early on Thursday morning.

The summons, issued with reservations, saved some face for the President after the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs had issued a notification to summon the inaugural session of the new assembly under clause 2 of Article 91 of the Constitution. 

"Subject to some reservations, President Dr Arif Alvi has summoned to convene the National Assembly on February 29 in exercise of the powers conferred by the Article 54(1) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan," read a message issued by the Presidency past midnight.

"The President accorded his approval while keeping in view the mandate and implications of the timeline given in Article 91 (2)  and subject to some reservations and expecting the resolution of the issue of the reserved seats before the 21st day," it further noted.

President Arif Alvi had twice rejected summaries from Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar to summon the maiden session of the newly elected National Assembly, raising objections related to the non-allotment of reserved seats to the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC). Around 90 of the independent candidates who won the February 8 elections had joined the party after the results were announced since they could not contest on a ticket of their party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The PTI could not compete in the elections after it lost its electoral symbol.

"The President said that he could not be oblivious of some incongruities in the electoral process and the process of formation of the government. He added that he had to keep national interest in his view, for cohesiveness and betterment of the nation," Alvi explained in his statement.

He further maintained: "Return of the summary was very much in accordance with the provisions of Article 48(1)."

"It is not understood on what grounds it has been taken as a partisan act, though it was also aimed at the completion of the National Assembly in accordance with Article 51 of the Constitution so that people of Pakistan are not deprived of taking part in the executive decisions of the country through their representatives as enshrined in the Objectives Resolution."

President Alvi concluded that keeping in view the mandate and implications of the timeline given in Article 91 (2) and subject to his reservations and expecting the resolution of the issue of reserved seats before the 21st day, a National Assembly meeting was summoned to convene on February 29, 2024.

Alvi laments PM's tone

President Alvi utilised the opportunity of issuing the summon to respond to Caretaker Prime Minister Kakar. He termed the "tone and tenor" adopted by the caretaker prime minister as "unfortunate".

As President, Alvi said he was the Head of the State who represented the unity of the Republic as per Article 41 of the Constitution and thus took exception to the contents of the summary sent by the interim premier.

"Summaries are not usually addressed in this way. It is sad that the chief executive of the country addresses the Head of the State in the first form and resorts to unacceptable language and allegations without any substance," Alvi lamented, highlighting that he believed and always maintained the principle of objectivity and neutrality in accordance with his oath and responsibilities under the Constitution.

The President said he did not want to "indulge and engage himself or dwell into such baseless accusations of constitutional violation attributed in the summary". 

Alvi remarked that it was needless to remind that a caretaker prime minister/set-up was merely responsible for ensuring conducive conditions for the peaceful, fair and transparent holding of the general elections within the framework of the Constitution and the timeline defined therein. To this end, Alvi said, many quarters had expressed reservations.

"There are many cases being challenged and it is the responsibility of the state that the will and mandate of the people is respected by all," he asserted.

President Alvi pointed to a proposal contained in the summary sent by the caretaker PM, terming it "anachronistic" because it was received on the night of February 26,  2024. Moreover, he said that the prime minister had not returned the summary strictly in accordance with provisions of Article 48(1) of the Constitution for reconsideration by the President.

In a jibe at the caretaker government, President Alvi stated that he fully understood that the Constitution must be implemented in letter and spirit, though it was not done so in the case of the electoral process. Alvi reiterated his stance about the provisions of the Constitution, such as Article 51 and Clause 2 of Article 91, to be followed by all and given effect in letter and spirit. 

"Of late, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is seized of the exercise contemplated by the Article 51 of the Constitution, the outcome of which was awaited and expected by the 21st day as envisaged in Article 91(2). However, till this time no decision has been made by the Commission", he complained, reiterating that he had to keep national interest in his view.

Ministry summoning session

Talking to The Friday Times, Constitutional experts said that the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs had summoned the session after the government obtained the joint legal opinion of the law ministry and National Assembly Secretariat citing Article 91.

The article states that the maiden session of the National Assembly must be summoned within 21 days of elections being held and results being declared. This deadline expires on February 29.

Since Arif Alvi had failed to issue a notice summoning a session of the NA until Wednesday evening, the ministry issued the summons.

First session activities

The first session of the National Assembly has been summoned for 10 am on Thursday.

National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf is expected to preside over the session and administer the oath to the newly elected members.

Thereafter, names will be submitted to elect a new speaker and deputy speaker.
Sources say the independent MNAs, who are backed by the PTI, are likely to raise slogans against alleged rigging in the recent polls.