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ISLAMABAD: The mainstream opposition parties in parliament – PML-N and PPP – may retain the all-important slots of both leader of the house [Prime Minister] and leader of the opposition in National Assembly, respectively, in case the joint opposition manages to send Prime Minister Imran Khan packing through a no-confidence motion.

This, according to informed sources, would help the two major opposition parties to pick a candidate as caretaker Prime Minister through required constitutional consultation process once general elections have been scheduled.

If the no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan succeeds and the next leader of house [Prime Minister] is elected from the PPP, the PML-N may opt to retain the slot of the leader of the opposition.

“This would help the two major parties in formation of the caretaker set up to completely exclude Imran Khan from the constitutional consultation process who had earlier refused to hold the required consultation process with the current leader of the opposition, Shehbaz Sharif, on the appointment of a new chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB),” said a senior opposition lawmaker on condition of anonymity who is privy to the ongoing discussions among the top leadership of the joint opposition.

Parliamentary sources, when contacted, maintained that there is no bar on any party to choose to sit in the opposition benches once it votes for election of the Leader of the House.

The senior opposition lawmaker added that if PML-N chose to continue to sit on the opposition benches but opted to vote for a candidate from any other party for the leader of the house, it can do so and there is no clause mentioned in the rules of procedure and conduct of business in the National Assembly to prohibit the PML-N from this. However, to retain the slot of leader of the opposition the party must get majority votes from the opposition benches.

“Hence, if PML-N’s nominated candidate for the slot of the opposition leader gets majority of the signatures from the opposition members, the slot would go to PML-N, or otherwise to PTI or any other party depending on who succeeds in getting the most signatures of members from the opposition benches,” he said.

When asked if PPP gets the slot of leader of the house, how would it retain its majority in the lower house without the support of PML-N if the latter chose to sit on the opposition benches, the parliamentary source said that if any party wants the ruling party’s leader of the house to prove his majority in the House it would require a vote of confidence.

“Once the leader of the house takes the vote of confidence – for which any party sitting on the opposition benches can also vote in favour – he [leader of the house] can retain the slot even if there are only 10 members left on the treasury benches later on,” he maintained, adding that the Prime Minister after the vote of confidence would not legally be required to get another vote of confidence or face a no-confidence motion for the next six months.

He said that as per sub-clause 8 of the rules 37, the Assembly shall not be prorogued until the motion is disposed of or, if leave is granted, the resolution has been voted upon.

He added that after the election of the prime minister [leader of the house] or a resolution for a vote of confidence under rule 36 has been passed or rejected, as the case may be, or a resolution of no-confidence under rule 37 has been passed, the Speaker shall forthwith intimate the result in writing to the President and the Secretary shall cause a notification to be published in the Gazette.

“Once the leader of the house is elected, the next step is the nomination of leader of the opposition as mentioned in the Chapter V, sub-clause 2 and 3 of Clause 39 of rules of procedure and conduct of business in the National Assembly,” he said.

The said clauses stated: “(2) After the [election of the Prime Minister] the Speaker shall inform the members about the date, time and place for submission of a name for the Leader of the Opposition under their signatures. (3) The Speaker shall declare a member as Leader of the Opposition having the greatest numerical strength after verification of the signatures of the members: Provided that any member who is not signatory to the proposal, if he presents himself before the count, and signs the proposal, shall be included in the count.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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