The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf on Saturday issued show-cause notices to 13 of its lawmakers on grounds of alleged defection, and sought an explanation from them by March 26 as to why they may not be declared defectors and disqualified as a member of the National Assembly.

The notices have been issued to the following MNAs:

  • Noor Alam Khan (NA-27 Peshawar-I)
  • Dr Muhammad Afzal Khan Dhandla (NA-98 Bhakkar-II)
  • Nawab Sher (NA-102 Faisalabad-II)
  • Raja Riaz Ahmad (NA-110 Faisalabad-X)
  • Ahmed Hussain Deharr (NA-154 Multan-I)
  • Rana Muhammad Qasim Noon (NA-159 Multan-VI)
  • Muhammad Abdul Ghafar Wattoo (NA-166 Bahawalnagar-I)
  • Makhdom Zada Sayed Basit Ahmad Sultan (NA-185 Muzaffargarh-V)
  • Aamir Talal Gopang (NA-186 Muzaffargarh-VI)
  • Sardar Riaz Mehmood Khan Mazari (NA-195 Rajanpur-III)
  • Wajiha Qamar (Elected on a reserved seat for women)
  • Nuzhat Pathan (Elected on a reserved seat for women)
  • Ramesh Kumar Vankwani (Elected on a reserved seat for non-Muslims)

The move came as several dissident lawmakers of the ruling party recently came out in the open ahead of voting on a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan, with the government accusing opposition parties of horse-trading.

On Thursday, a number of PTI lawmakers were found staying at the Sindh House in Islamabad — which is the domain of the Sindh government — and some of them said while speaking to media persons that they would vote on the no-confidence motion tabled against the premier in "accordance with their conscience" and that they had developed differences with PM Imran.

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 move there after observing some suspicious activities and receiving threats while staying at the Parliament Lodges.

All of them refuted allegations that they had been offered money to make the opposition's no-trust move a success.

Subsequently, three federal ministers, namely Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar, announced during a press conference yesterday (Friday) that the ruling PTI would issue show-cause notices to its defecting lawmakers as was required under Article 63 (A) of the Constitution prior to their disqualification on grounds of defection.

One of the notices, which has been issued to Muhammad Afzal Khan Dhandla and a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, stated: "It is learnt via large-scale broadcast and videos circulated on different forums of media that you have left the parliamentary party of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and joined the opposition parties, who have brought a motion of vote of no confidence against the honourable prime minister of Pakistan, dated March 8, 2022."

The notice said the lawmakers had neither denied the contents of the interviews nor issued a rebuttal to this "act of defection".

"Your interviews contain a clear intent of leaving the membership of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf," the notice read.

The notice cited Article 63 (A) of the Constitution, stating that the provision bounds the lawmakers to follow the directions issued by their parliamentary party, and referred to two letters, dated March 15, 2022 and March 18, 2022, in this regard.

Under this provision, it added, a defecting lawmaker was also to be given a chance to explain why he may not be declared a defector.

In light of this provision, the notice said, the lawmaker was being given an opportunity to have a hearing before the party head PM Imran and show their cause "as to why a declaration may not be issued against you for getting you de-seated from the membership of the National Assembly of Pakistan".

"You may give a reply to this show-cause notice and have a personal hearing before Mr Imran Khan ... on or before 2pm on Saturday, March 26, 2022," the notice said.

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".

Debate surrounding Article 63 (A)

On Friday, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said the government would file a reference in the Supreme Court, asking it to interpret Article 63 (A) of the Constitution to ascertain "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".

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.

The government maintains that the intent of Article 63 (A) of the Constitution is to not allow anyone to cross the floor who got the vote in the name of party leadership and hence, it permits the disqualification of defecting lawmakers from the NA prior to them voting on the no-trust motion.

Some legal experts, however, disagree.

Former president of the Sindh High Court Bar Association Salahuddin Ahmed told Dawn the Constitution was very clear that defection entailing disqualification could be applied only once a member votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the parliamentary party to which he belongs in relations to no-confidence motion and not before any such move.

Had it been the intention of the Constitution to invoke the defection clause before any such move by any member, the legislature could have incorporated it in Article 63-A of the Constitution in clear terms, he said.

Similarly, lawyer Reema Omer earlier tweeted that Article 63-A was being "twisted" by some of her colleagues to argue that the party head could declare the dissident MNAs had defected even before the voting takes place so the NA speaker could then disregard their votes.

She argued that "such interpretation is disingenuous, desperate, and clearly against text of relevant laws + SC judgments".

Her assessment was similar to that of Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (Pildat) President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob's. He said there is no way a member can be disqualified before a no-confidence vote has taken place.

“They can’t stop them nor can they disqualify them. The action against defection has been very clearly defined in Article 63A,” he said.

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