LAHORE -Although the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek stand isolated in their crusade against the government as all parties having representation in parliament are standing by the ruling PML-N, it will be rather premature to say whether the current political crisis will be over any time soon. The reason: The decision to be taken by the NA Speaker on the resignations of the PTI lawmakers will be an important factor which will decide the future direction of the situation. And this will not be an easy decision for him to take.
Likewise, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s future strategy will also play an important role in aggravating the situation or bringing it under control. So far, the policy of this party has been unclear and it has been changing, mostly to support the opposition. Several weeks ago, MQM chief Altaf Hussain advised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down to avert a crisis. Later on, he proposed the formation of a national government to steer the country out of the prevailing difficult situation. On Tuesday, he party was seen with the PML-N, although it also gave some ideas to improve the situation.
The MQM can spring a surprise by deciding at a later stage to tender resignations from all the 25 National Assembly and 51 provincial seats of the Sindh Assembly it won in the previous elections. And in case it takes such a decision, holding by-elections on all seats vacated by both the PTI and the MQM will be like going for mini-general elections in the country, a situation in which the government’s allies may advise it to go to the electorate afresh.
The PTI tendered resignations from about 30 seats each of the NA and Punjab assembly and four of the provincial legislature of Sindh. (In Balochistan, it is non-existent).
It has 55 seats in the KP Assembly, on which a decision will be taken at a later stage because of the pending no-trust motion against the chief minister.
Superfluous to point out that PTI resignations from so many seats will create the atmosphere of election in KP and Punjab, and in case the MQM also takes a similar decision the situation in Sindh will also be the same.
There is no timeline for the speaker to accept the resignations. Generally, the speaker protects the political interests of the ruling party while taking a decision on resignation(s). He can keep the matter pending for as long as the expediency dictates.
In 1997-99 session, a PML-N MPA (now a prominent columnist) tendered resignation from his Punjab Assembly seat because of differences with the party leadership. Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, then speaker of the provincial legislature, kept the resignation pending on the pretext that he is verifying the signature of the lawmaker and confirming whether the member had taken the decision voluntarily. Behind the scene, efforts were being made to settle the differences. After many months, the member agreed to take back the resignation and started attending the assembly sessions.
(The late Dr Sher Afgan who remained minister for parliamentary affairs during the Musharraf era used to say that a resignation becomes effective even if it is verbally announced by a member).
Political governments also take decisions on resignations keeping in sight their interests.
Some months ago, the JUI-F parted ways with the ruling PML-N because its ministers Akram Khan Durrani and Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haidri had not been allotted portfolios despite their induction in the cabinet many months before. Both parties kept at a distance for some time. But when the PTI and the PAT declared their plans to oust the incumbent setup, the PML-N leadership approached the JUI-F anew and gave the ministries Maulana Fazlur Rehman was demanding for his colleagues. At present, the JUI-F is perhaps the staunchest supporter of the prime minister.
In the prevailing circumstances, if the PTI withdraws the resignations of its lawmakers, the situation can be expected to take a turn for the better. But if it doesn’t, elections on the vacant seats will become mandatory, with no one in a position to have the slightest idea about the political future of the budding party.
These are the testing times for political leaders. Those who say that they will make Kashmir part of Pakistan through dialogue with India (which claims Kashmir is its integral part) should first establish that they can settle their own differences through talks.