ISLAMABAD - Former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Saturday urged National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq to declare the seats of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf lawmakers who returned to the Parliament vacant and refer the matter to the Election Commission of Pakistan for by-polls in their constituencies, following the relevant constitutional provisions.

The former CJP reminded Speaker Ayaz Sadiq that he had taken oath to defend and protect the constitution. He asked him to fulfil his responsibility in the light of Article 64 of the Constitution.

Justice (r) Iftikhar Chaudhry said the conduct of the NA speaker seriously disappointed all law-knowing citizens when he allowed the PTI parliamentarians to attend the joint session of the house on April 6. “It is a lapse of the highest order,” he held.

“You have an opportunity to maintain the sanctity of the rule of law. Please do not waste this opportunity,” a three-page letter written by the ex-CJP to the NA speaker said. “You should wait for any judicial pronouncement and enforce the constitutional provisions according to which seats of the PTI lawmakers tendering resignations from the National Assembly have fallen vacant and the Election Commission of Pakistan should announce a schedule for by-elections on these seats.

“The destiny has given you a chance to follow in the footprints of Maulvi Tameez-ud-Din Khan, the first president of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, who staunchly resisted the assembly’s unconstitutional dissolution by the then governor general. Tameez-ud-Din lost that legal battle, but he will live forever in our history as a person of remarkable constitutionalism, who stood much taller than the Supreme Court justices of his era,” the ex-CJP writes to the speaker.

He said that, according to Article 64(1), it is clear that once a parliamentarian resigns from his seat by writing a letter, his seat becomes vacant automatically and after that neither the speaker of the house nor anyone else has any discretion in the matter.

The PTI lawmakers’ return to the National Assembly and the Punjab and Sindh assemblies has been challenged by a PML-N senator and Justice Party in the Supreme Court.