ISLAMABAD: The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has given a week to 13 of its dissidents to explain their position over ‘defection’ before the party chief.

Separate show-cause notices — third in the series — have been issued to them with signatures of party’s central secretary general Asad Umer seeking an explanation by March 26 as to why they may not be declared defectors and disqualified as a member of the National Assembly.

Those issued notices include Dr Mohammad Afzal Khan Dhandla (NA-98 Bhakkar-II), Nawab Sher Waseer (NA-102 Faisalabad-II), Raja Riaz Ahmad (NA-110 Faisalabad), Ahmed Hussain Deharr (NA-154 Multan), Rana Mohammad Qasim Noon (NA-159 Multan),Mohammad Abdul Ghaffar Wattoo (NA-166 Bahawalnagar), Makhdoom Zada Sayed Basit Ahmad Sultan (NA-185 Muzaffargarh), Aamir Talal Gopang (NA-186 Muzaffargarh), Sardar Riaz Mehmood Khan Mazari (NA-195 Rajanpur), Wajiha Qamar (reserved seat for women), Nuzhat Pathan (reserved seat for women), Ramesh Kumar Vankwani (reserved seat for non-Muslims) and Noor Alam Khan (NA-27 Peshawar).

The move came two days after dissident lawmakers of the ruling party surfaced in the open at Sindh House here, bringing to the light the cracks within the party, with the government accusing the opposition of using Sindh House for purchasing loyalties of MNAs.

Fawad optimistic about their return

On Thursday, a number of PTI lawmakers were found staying at Sindh House in Islamabad — which is the domain of the Sindh government — and some of them said while talking to reporters made public the differences they had developed with Prime Minister Imran Khan and declared they would vote on the no-confidence motion tabled against the premier in “accordance with their conscience”.

Most of these individuals, who joined the PTI before the 2018 elections, claimed they decided to move to Sindh House after observing some ‘suspicious’ activities and ‘receiving threats’ while staying at the Parliament Lodges. All of them refuted the allegation they had been offered money to make the opposition’s no-trust move a success.

Subsequently, three federal ministers Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Fawad Chaudhry and Asad Umar told a presser on Friday that the ruling PTI would issue show-cause notices to its defecting lawmakers under Article 63 (A) of the Constitution prior to their disqualification on grounds of defection.

The identical notices, copies of which are available with Dawn, read: “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 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 PTI chief Imran Khan 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.

The government maintains that the intent of Article 63 (A) of the Constitution was to prevent floor crossing by anyone who got vote in the name of party leadership and hence, it permitted the disqualification of defecting lawmakers from the NA before they cast vote on the no-trust motion. The opposition, however, believes the Article can only be invoked against the members who vote or abstain from voting on no-trust motion contrary to the directions of their party. While pointing out that decision on the declaration of defection is to be taken by the ECP and not the National Assembly speaker, the opposition warns the government that any extra constitutional means used to circumvent a constitutional provision would be a recipe for disaster.

Talking to reporters on Saturday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said a reference would be filed in the Supreme Court on Monday to ask about the legal status of the vote of party members when they were “clearly involved in horse-trading and changing their loyalties in exchange for money”.

However, he also expressed optimism about their return to the party, explaining that doors were still open for them to come back and pointing out that they had been given a week for it.

The minister said brother of one of the PTI dissidents called him to say his entire family was embarrassed over his act and “sought the government’s help for release of his brother from the Sindh House”. He said every lawmaker would be able to take independent political decision ahead of the no-trust motion, adding that all-out efforts were being made to ensure “release of the lawmakers imprisoned” at the Sindh House under the Sindh Police watch.

Mr Chaudhry said the matters with the ally parties would also be resolved soon.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2022

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