The PTI filed a petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Saturday, requesting it to direct the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to notify new MPAs on reserved seats in the Punjab Assembly after they became vacant following the ECP's decision to de-seat dissident lawmakers of the party.

Earlier this month, a total of 25 PTI dissident lawmakers, which included five elected on seats reserved for women and minorities, were de-seated for voting for PML-N's Hamza Shehbaz in the Punjab chief minister's election. They were officially de-notified by the ECP on May 23.

In a petition filed today by lawyer Amir Saeed Rawn, PTI's Parliamentary Leader in the Punjab Assembly Mohammad Sibtain Khan stated that according to Article 104 (5) of the Election Act, 2017, "Where a seat reserved for women or non-Muslims in an Assembly falls vacant as a result of death, resignation or disqualification of a member, it shall be filled in by the next person in order of precedence from the party's list of candidates submitted to the Commission."

The petition stated that Khan had submitted the party's priority list, according to which Batool Janjua, Saira Raza and Fouzia Abbas were next in line for women's seats while Habkook Gill and Samuel Yaqoob were nominated for minority seats.

However, the respondents — ECP, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja and Provincial Election Commission, Punjab — were not notifying them as members, the petition stated.

"The ladies and the minorities members who are on the priority list have again and again contacted the respondents and have submitted their declarations as per the election rules but the respondents are reluctant to get the documents and are not notifying them."

The petition stated that Khan had also approached the Provincial Election Commission on May 23 and 25 to accept the declarations list and documents and forward it to the chief election commissioner but the "respondent is reluctant and giving deaf ear to the lawful request".

It referred to Article 106 of the Constitution, which is related to the structure of provincial assemblies, and said that the respondents were violating the Constitution and not acting in accordance with the law by not notifying the new members.

The petition said the respondents were doing so to "favour the government party in Punjab".

It requested the court to direct the ECP, CEC and Provincial Election Commission to notify the five new MPAs and "summon [them] personally" to ensure that they implemented Article 106 of the Constitution and Article 104 (5) of the Elections Act, 2017.

The LHC has fixed the petition for hearing on Monday.

ECP verdict

The votes of the 25 PTI dissidents had been instrumental in helping Hamza get over the line in the election for the chief minister; he received a total of 197 votes while 186 votes are required for a simple majority.

The dissident lawmakers were 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.

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 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.

On May 20, the electoral watchdog had passed an order to de-seat these lawmakers, stating that they had defected from the party under Article 63-A of the Constitution, which bars lawmakers from voting against the party line in the election of prime minister and chief minister, in a vote of confidence or no-confidence, a Constitution amendment bill and a money bill.

Since these 25 lawmakers are no longer members of the House, Hamza has lost his majority.

The allocation of five vacant reserved seats will assume an important role if a run-off election is held.

The ECP, according to legal experts, will now distribute these seats as per the current strength of each party in the Punjab Assembly — meaning if the PTI gets the most share it may be able to clinch the coveted chief minister's post.

The Punjab Assembly's current strength is 346 members: the PTI has 158 lawmakers, its ally PML-Q 10, the PML-N 165, PPP seven, five independents and one Rah-i-Haq Party. However, five 'rebel' PML-N lawmakers are not expected to support their party in the CM election.

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