Pakistan’s Parliament inaugurates first session amidst controversy

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Overview of the Pakistan's Parliament
Pakistan's newly-elected Parliament (Photo - X)

The newly-formed Pakistan’s Parliament embarked on its inaugural session on Thursday. President Dr Arif Alvi reluctantly summoned the assembly after a dispute with the caretaker government concerning the allotment of reserved seats for candidates backed by former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party.

Heading the opening session, outgoing Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf commenced proceedings after a delay of over an hour. President Alvi, following some reservations, approved the summoning of the National Assembly on February 29, exercising powers under Article 54(1) of the Constitution.

The President’s statement highlighted his expectation for the resolution of the reserved seats issue within the stipulated 21 days after the general elections, as mandated by Article 91(2). The late-night statement also criticized the tone of the summary sent by caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar.

According to constitutional provisions, the National Assembly must convene within 21 days of the elections, with February 29 being the mandated date under Article 91. The first session began amid allegations of vote rigging.

In the opening session, Speaker Ashraf administered the oath to new members, adjourning the session for the next Assembly to elect the new speaker and deputy speaker. The election for the prime minister’s post is anticipated on Saturday, with former Premier Shehbaz Sharif poised to be elected as the new leader of the House.

Reserved Seats Issue

The controversy arose when independent candidates, previously affiliated with Imran Khan’s PTI, joined the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) to secure the party’s share of reserved seats. The PTI candidates, running as independents due to non-allotment of their electoral symbol, faced legal scrutiny over the allocation of reserved seats.

President Alvi’s earlier refusal to summon the session drew criticism from opposition parties, including the PML-N and PPP, who warned of potential legal consequences. The PTI, alleging massive election rigging, vowed to voice their concerns both inside and outside the Parliament.

Despite winning the majority of seats in the February 8 general election, PTI faces challenges from the PML-N and PPP’s power-sharing deal, potentially sidelining Imran Khan’s return to power. The unfolding political scenario promises an eventful maiden session of the National Assembly, with the PTI rejecting coalition attempts and warning of possible political instability.

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