Political crisis deepens further in Pakistan

Political crisis deepens further in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The political crisis deepened in Pakistan on Wednesday after a high court suspended an order issued by the country’s election regulator last month de-notifying 43 lawmakers of ex-prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, ordering that by-elections in the respective constituencies be put on hold.

Khan’s party had announced it would quit the National Assembly en masse after he was driven out of power last April in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence. However, Speaker, Raja Parvez Ashraf, said he needed to individually verify if the lawmakers were resigning of their own accord.

After months of delays, Ashraf finally accepted the resignations of 81 PTI lawmakers in three separate phases since the party announced its intent not to return to the legislative body last year. They were all subsequently denotified by the ECP.

However, at least 43 PTI lawmakers then said they wanted to withdraw their resignations on Khan’s instructions so that the party could retain the requisite numbers to claim the opposition leader’s slot in parliament.

On Wednesday, the Lahore High Court (LHC) heard a plea filed by PTI’s Riaz Fatyana and other lawmakers against the approval of their resignations by the National Assembly speaker. The court then suspended the ECP’s notification.

“The court has suspended [ECP’s] decision as it was made on a political basis by the speaker of the national assembly,” PTI’s general secretary Asad Umar announced on Twitter. “The membership of 43 PTI MNAs has been restored,” he added.

Analysts say the PTI, which initially threatened the en masse resignations to force early general elections, now wants to maintain its presence in the national legislature so it can be part of the consultative process for the appointment of the interim setup ahead of the general elections later this year. They are eying the leader of the opposition slot, who has a direct say in the interim set up.