ISLAMABAD: In a development that is set to deepen political crisis in Punjab, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday de-seated 25 PTI-affiliated members of the Punjab Assembly because they voted for PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz in the election for the office of chief minister, against party directions.
“……we are of the view that the casting of votes by the respondent in favour of opposing candidate is a serious issue and worst form of betraying the electorate and party’s policy. Therefore, we hold that the defection in the subject cases shall not depend upon strict proof of observance of pre-requisites as provided in Article 63-A.
“…the respondents cease to be members of Punjab assembly and their seats become vacant,” ECP held in its decision.
Those who lost their seats include Raja Sagheer Ahmed (PP-7 Rawalpindi), Malik Ghulam Rasool Sangha (PP-83 Khushab), Saeed Akbar Khan (PP-90 Bhakkar), Muhammad Ajmal (PP-97 Faisalabad), Abdul Aleem Khan (PP-158 Lahore), Nazir Ahmed Chohan (PP-167 Lahore), Muhammad Amin Zulqarnain (PP-170 Lahore), Malik Nauman Langrial (PP-202 Sahiwal), Muhammad Salman (PP-217 Multan), Zawar Hussain Warraich (PP-224 Lodhran), Nazir Ahmed Khan PP-228 Lodhran), Fida Hussain (PP-237 Bahawalnagar), Ms Zahra Batool (PP-272 Muzaffargarh), Muhammad Tahir (PP-282 Layyah), Ms Aisha Nawaz (reserved seat for women), Ms Sajida Yousaf (reserved seat for women), Harron Imran Gill (reserved seat for minorities), Ms Uzma Kardar (reserved seat for women), Malik Asad Ali (PP-168 Lahore), Ijaz Masih (reserved seat for minorities), Muhammad Sabtain Raza (PP-273 Muzaffargarh), Mohsin Atta Khan Khosa (PP-288 DG Khan), Mian Khalid Mehmood (PP-140 Sheikhupura), Mehar Muhammad Aslam (PP-127 Jhang) and Faisal Hayat (PP-125 Jhang).
PML-N claims Hamza will remain Punjab CM; PTI seeks fresh polls under reconstituted ECP
Those aggrieved by the decision can appeal before the Supreme Court within 30 days.
The unanimous decision by the ECP has become all the more important following the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 63-A holding that the vote of dissident MPs cannot be counted.
The deseated members had a key role to play in election of Hamza Shehbaz who has now lost majority’s support in the House.
In the election for the chief minister’s slot on April 16, 2022, PML-N leader Hamza Shehbaz got 197 votes as opposed to the required number of 186 in the House of 371. The strength of his supporters in the House has apparently shrunk to 172, meaning 14 short of the magic number — 186.
Observing that declarations seeking disqualification vary on a case to case basis, it noted that act of defection has been seriously viewed and denounced by the august Supreme Court in a number of pronouncements and reproduced few of them.
“In the first place, if the member has been elected on the basis of a manifesto, or on account of his affiliation with a political party, or on account of his particular stand on a question of public importance, his defection amounts to a clear breach of confidence reposed in him by the electorate. If his conscience dictates to him so, or he considers it expedient, the only course open to him is to … and to fight a re-election,” one of the cited judgements reads.
Reacting to the ECP order on Friday, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz ruled out the possibility of Punjab slipping out of PML-N’s hands.
“No matter what PTI does, the dream of snatching Punjab from the Sher is bound to be shattered,” she said, taking to Twitter. Lashing out at the PTI chairman, she wrote “Imran Khan, who was abusing the ECP day and night, may have felt a little ashamed after today’s decision.”
Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb was of the opinion that the decision did not affect the Punjab government. She said Hamza Shehbaz will continue to be the Punjab chief minister, adding that this was not the time for PTI to celebrate, rather they should mourn the departure of 25 of its members.
Ms Aurangzeb said the dissident members had showed a lack of confidence in their party’s leadership and then decided to vote for someone else.
Pointing out that while the decision on disqualification declarations had been given within a month, the foreign funding case against the PTI had been pending for eight years.
But PTI leader and Ms Aurangzeb’s predecessor, Fawad Chaudhry, said the federal and the Punjab governments had practically ceased to exist and now only a ‘constitutional conclusion’ was pending.
He called on the Sharifs to tender their resignations and let the country move towards fresh elections.
Fawad insisted that a date for fresh elections should be announced and the electoral exercise should be conducted under an acceptable framework and a new Election Commission. He also criticised the decision of making Raja Riaz leader of the opposition in the National Assembly.
PTI Secretary General Asad Umar also said the PTI had no faith in the ECP and called for fresh polls under an impartial commission, as any electoral exercise conducted by the current commission would not be credible.
Talking to Dawn, Advocate Faisal Fareed, one of the lawyers to have represented PTI before the ECP in the defection case, said the defectors used ‘a broken shield’ in their defence. They violated article 63A and then tried to hide behind the same, he added.
“As a settled principle one can’t seek defence under the same law he or she has violated.”
Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2022