The PTI on Friday filed an appeal in the Lahore High Court (LHC), challenging the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) verdict on notifying new MPAs on five reserved seats of the Punjab Assembly after they fell vacant following the de-seating of 25 dissident PTI lawmakers.

The petition was submitted by resident Zainab Umair.

Last month, 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.

Subsequently, the PTI had filed a petition in the LHC requesting it to direct the ECP to notify the five new MPAs and "summon [them] personally" after which the high court had given the ECP a deadline for June 2 to decide on the matter.

In its verdict on Thursday, the electoral watchdog had stayed the notification until the by-polls on the 20 general seats scheduled for July 17, saying that the general seats of the PA had been reduced.

Umair, in her appeal filed today, opposed the commission's ruling contending that it was an attempt at hindrance by the "illegal government" and was a contravention of Article 224 of the Constitution.

Section 9 of the law stated that "when a seat reserved for women or non-Muslims in the National Assembly or a Provincial Assembly falls vacant, on account of death, resignation or disqualification of a member, it shall be filled by the next person in order of precedence from the party list of the candidates to be submitted to the Election Commission by the political party whose member has vacated such seat.”

The petitioner argued that the ECP had "utterly failed" to perform the constitutional obligations as envisaged under the law and passed a "biased and arbitrary" verdict.

"The aforementioned order is an erroneous assumption of jurisdiction as ECP does not possess the power or authority to interpret the Constitution as vested with the honourable courts of Pakistan," she stated.

The petition further revealed that during the hearing of the application, the electoral body had summoned the Attorney General of Pakistan as well as the Advocate General of Punjab.

"ECP is not a court of law, therefore, does not have the jurisdiction to summon the Attorney General or the Advocate General of Punjab under any circumstances as the same were Advocates for the PML-N previously," it argued.

Subsequently, Umair requested the court set aside ECP's order and direct it to "immediately issue the notifications for the 5 elected/declared MPAs for the reserved seats" in the interest of justice, equity and fair play.

ECP's verdict

The ECP order issued yesterday held: "...being a case of first impression, we have come to the conclusion that the scheme of proportional representation provided in the Constitution is mandatory for filling of vacant reserved seats for women and non-Muslims. Keeping in view the spirit of Article 106 of the Constitution we deem it appropriate to defer the filling of vacant reserved seats till the outcome of by-elections on 20 general seats in the provincial assembly of Punjab."

The order said individual reserved seat(s) falling vacant on the account of death, resignation or disqualification of a member(s) were filled by the next member as per the party list. The subject case was of first impression because 20 members from general seats of a parliamentary party were disqualified and de-seated under Article 63-A of the Constitution, which had sufficiently reduced the strength of general seats of that party in the Punjab Assembly.

Read: SC decides defecting lawmakers' votes will not be counted

It also pointed out that it had been held by the Supreme Court on many occasions that redundancy cannot be attributed to the legislature nor are constitutional provisions to be interpreted to render any of the provisions redundant or ineffective.

ECP de-seats dissident MPAs

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.

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.

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