Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said on Friday that the government would file a reference in the Supreme Court, asking it to interpret Article 63 (A) of the Constitution, which is related to disqualification of parliamentarians on grounds of defection.
In a series of tweets, Chaudhry said the government would also request the top court to conduct daily hearings on the reference that would be filed under Article 186 of the Constitution, which is related to the advisory jurisdiction of the SC.
"The Supreme Court will be asked about the legal status of the vote of party members when they are clearly involved in horse-trading and change their loyalties in exchange for money," the minister said.
The development comes a day after several PTI lawmakers, who had been 'in hiding' at the Sindh House in Islamabad, revealed themselves — proving that the opposition's claims of having "won over" members of the ruling coalition were indeed true.
Prime Minister Imran Khan and some cabinet ministers had earlier accused the opposition of indulging in horse-trading ahead of the crucial vote on the no-confidence resolution, disclosing that the capital's Sindh House had become a centre for buying and purchasing members.
But while government members continued to claim that these dissidents had "sold their souls for money", a number of TV channels that sent their teams into Sindh House to verify the claims were faced with nearly a dozen PTI members, who claimed that they had developed differences with the Imran Khan-led government and were going to vote in "accordance with their conscience".
Television footage showed PTI MNAs, including some women lawmakers, lounging around the spacious Sindh House, which is located right opposite the official residence of the chief justice of Pakistan.
In his tweet today, Chaudhry said the Supreme Court would also be asked for advice on whether those who change their party loyalties for financial reasons would be disqualified for life or allowed to contest elections again.
Article 63 (A)
According to Article 63 (A) of the Constitution, a parliamentarian can be disqualified on grounds of defection if he "votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the parliamentary party to which he belongs, in relation to election of the prime minister or chief minister; or a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or a money bill or a Constitution (amendment) bill".
The article says that the party head has to declare in writing that the MNA concerned has defected but before making the declaration, the party head will "provide such member with an opportunity to show cause as to why such declaration may not be made against him".
After giving the member a chance to explain their reasons, the party head will forward the declaration to the speaker, who will forward it to the chief election commissioner (CEC). The CEC will then have 30 days to confirm the declaration. If confirmed by the CEC, the member "shall cease to be a member of the House and his seat shall become vacant".
The government has already indicated that it will use Article 63 (A) to "crush" the no-confidence motion against PM Imran.
Earlier this week, Adviser to Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs Dr Babar Awan had said that the intent of Article 63 (A) of the Constitution was to not allow anyone to cross the floor who got the vote in the name of party leadership. "We will crush the no-confidence motion through the Constitution and the law," he had claimed.
The MNAs who directly or indirectly criticised the government's policies on Thursday included Raja Riaz and Nawab Sher Waseer from Faisalabad, Noor Alam Khan from Peshawar, minority representative Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, Nuzhat Pathan and parliamentary secretary for education Wajiha Qamar.
Raja Riaz, who belongs to the Jahangir Tareen group, reportedly claimed that there were 24 PTI members staying at Sindh House, while Noor Alam Khan put the number of dissidents over 24.
Most of these individuals, who joined the PTI before the 2018 elections, claimed that they were staying at the facility of their own will and they decided to shift here after observing some suspicious activities and receiving threats while lodging at Parliament Lodges.
All of them refuted allegations that they had been offered money to make the opposition's no trust move a success. The members, however, remained diplomatic when asked if they had decided to vote in support of the opposition's no-trust resolution against the prime minister, stating that they would vote according to their "conscience".