ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan on Saturday knocked at the doors of the Supreme Court to challenge the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) declaration on May 11 that rejected the disqualification references against 20 party dissident members of the National Assembly (MNAs).
With the passing away of Dr Aamir Liaquat Hussain, only a set of 19 appeals were moved against party dissidents through PTI’s senior counsel Chaudhry Faisal Hussain.
In a unanimous decision, a three-member ECP bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, rejected the disqualification references which were referred to the commission by the PTI against 20 dissident MNAs on the ground that Article 63A of the Constitution, which deals with the lawmakers’ disqualification for defection, did not apply to the 20 MNAs who had jumped ship ahead of the no-confidence move against former prime minister Imran Khan last month.
In one of the petitions, the current opposition leader in the National Assembly, Raja Riaz, was accused of acting in the most “treacherous and unfaithful” manner by changing his loyalties towards the opposition’s Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) and became a “turncoat” ahead of the March 8 no-trust move against Imran Khan.
Calls ECP’s judgement arbitrary, devoid of legal substance
The petition alleged that Mr Riaz violated party discipline and in complete disregard of the law and Constitution led the campaign of defection along with other defecting PTI members, inflicting loss to democracy, Constitution, the party and, above all, his constituents and public at large.
After the submitting of the no-confidence motion when all other party members were striving to save the country from “regime change”, Raja Riaz emerged along with other respondents from the Sindh House where he purportedly hid “to carry out his evil design to damage the democratic system in the most unholy manner”, the strong-worded petition claimed.
Consequently, PTI chairman Imran Khan, while taking notice of his suspicious and damaging anti-PTI activities, issued a show-cause notice on March 19, but the respondent (Raja Riaz) refused to take delivery of the notice and later attached a frivolous reply that was never received by the appellant (party chairman).
If the judicial notice of such an illegal and unlawful action is avoided and the respondent is allowed to go scot-free, it will amount to non-existence of law and the Constitution in the country, the petition argued.
It further alleged that the respondent failed to uphold his oath by deceiving the confidence of the PTI and voters of his constituency as well as the public at large by changing his loyalty to another parliamentary party without tendering resignation from his seat first.
Therefore, the appellant, after meeting codal formalities, forwarded the declaration against the respondent to the then National Assembly speaker under Article 63A of the Constitution who then referred it to the chief election commissioner.
The ECP judgement was arbitrary, illegal, devoid of legal substance and had been rendered in derogation of well-established principles of law and Constitution, the petition said, adding that the commission’s order was not in consonance with the settled principles of fair trial and had been rendered without following due process and propriety.
Besides, the respondents failed to give plausible and justiciable reasons to rationalise the commission’s order, it added.
Thus the ECP order amounts to putting Article 63A in redundancy, allowing defection, horse-trading and floor crossing in the most casual way and defeats the purpose and objective of the provision in letter and spirit.
The petition argued that the intention and objective of the law and the Constitution was to save the stream of democracy from pollution of horse-trading and floor crossing. But, the ECP miserably failed to guard the Constitution and also failed to abide by its legal obligation under Election Act 2017.
Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2022