ECP postpones announcement of verdict on disqualification references against 25 dissident PTI MPAs

Published May 18, 2022
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). — Photo courtesy Radio Pak/File
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). — Photo courtesy Radio Pak/File

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which was set to deliver its verdict on Wednesday on references seeking the disqualification of 25 dissident MPAs of the PTI who voted for PML-N's Hamza Shehbaz in the election for Punjab chief minister, postponed the announcement.

The ECP had reserved the verdict yesterday and stated that it would be announced at 12pm today. However, the case was later de-listed from the Election Commission's cause list for the day.

The Election Commission's verdict is particularly significant in light of the Supreme Court's decision on a presidential reference seeking its interpretation of Article 63-A, related to the disqualification of lawmakers over defection, which was announced yesterday.

Article 63-A seeks to restrict lawmakers from voting (or abstaining) in violation of party instructions "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".

In its interpretation of this Article, the apex court said votes cast against party direction "cannot be counted and must be disregarded, and this is so regardless of whether the party head, subsequent to such vote, proceeds to take, or refrains from taking, action that would result in a declaration of defection".

The votes of the 25 PTI dissidents had been instrumental in helping Hamza get over the line; he received a total of 197 votes while 186 votes are required for a simple majority. If the 25 votes by PTI lawmakers are removed from his tally, he would lose his majority.

Read: After SC opinion on Article 63-A, what's the status of Punjab CM election?

Following Hamza's election as the chief minister on April 16, the PTI had sent a declaration for declaring the 25 MPAs as defectors to Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, who was also the PTI-PML-Q's joint candidate for the CM Office.

Subsequently, Elahi had sent the reference to the ECP, urging it to de-seat these lawmakers for defecting from the PTI by casting their votes in Hamza's favour in violation of party directions.

The dissident lawmakers are Raja Sagheer Ahmed, Malik Ghulam Rasool Sangha, Saeed Akbar Khan, Mohammad Ajmal, Abdul Aleem Khan, Nazir Ahmed Chohan, Mohammad Amin Zulqernain, Malik Nauman Langrial, Mohammad Salman, Zawar Hussain Warraich, Nazir Ahmed Khan, Fida Hussain, Zahra Batool, Mohammad Tahir, Aisha Nawaz, Sajida Yousaf, Haroon Imran Gill, Uzma Kardar, Malik Asad Ali, Ijaz Masih, Mohammad Sabtain Raza, Mohsin Atta Khan Khosa, Mian Khalid Mehmood, Mehar Mohammad Aslam and Faisal Hayat.

Most of the 25 dissident MPAs tried to justify their action of voting in favour of Hamza by claiming that they had received no directives from the party. They raised procedural objections and claimed they never received any show-cause notices — a mandatory requirement.

However, PTI's counsel, Barrister Ali Zafar, argued that the MPAs were issued instructions by the party's chief whip in the Punjab Assembly, as well as, Secretary General Asad Umar through a letter.

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".

According to the Article, any party that is aggrieved with the Election Commission's decision can file an appeal in the Supreme Court within a month. The apex court has 90 days to decide the matter.

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