National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Thursday clarified that he will decide the way forward on the PTI’s return to Parliament after he has received the Lahore High Court (LHC)’s order suspending the de-notification of the resignations of 43 PTI lawmakers.
In a video statement, Ashraf said he had not yet received the LHC order, nor were its contents in his knowledge. “The order is not with us … we can’t read it or go into the details,” he said, adding that the government had been made a party in the case and had only heard of the verdict “on television.” Reiterating that he had not received notice from the LHC, he added: “I believe that once the decision comes and we read it … we will consult our lawyers and experts and then decide the way forward.”
On Wednesday, the LHC suspended the de-notification orders of 43 PTI MNAs and issued notices to the federal government and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to appear before it in the next hearing. During proceedings, the PTI had argued that the resignations of its lawmakers were accepted by the speaker after they had already withdrawn them.
Several of the PTI lawmakers whose de-notification was suspended reached Parliament on Thursday morning, but were told by staff that they could not enter until the LHC had issued its order. Subsequently, a meeting of the party leadership decided to wait until the orders were issued before returning to the National Assembly and demanding the slot of opposition leader.
PTI lawmakers resigned en masse from the Lower House after PTI chief Imran Khan was ousted as prime minister through a vote of no-confidence in April 2022. The resignations were initially accepted by then-deputy speaker Qasim Suri, but Ashraf had rejected this, saying he needed to individually verify the notices. In July, he accepted the resignations of 11 lawmakers, with the PTI protesting the “phased” acceptance and even approaching court to get it reversed.
Six months later, in January, Ashraf started to accept the resignations of PTI lawmakers again, starting with 34 MNAs in one phase; followed by 35 others; and then the final 43. The PTI argues its lawmakers wrote to the NA speaker to get their resignations withdrawn, but the speaker maintains he had already accepted their resignations by the time they attempted to contact them.