LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to notify members of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on five reserved seats in the Punjab Assembly following the disqualification of 25 MPAs over defection during the election of Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz.

Justice Shahid Waheed passed the order on a petition filed by PTI MPA Zainab Umair and others, challenging a decision of the ECP wherein the notification of the MPAs against five reserved seats had been deferred until the by-polls on 20 general seats, scheduled for July 17.

The PTI legal team claimed Chief Minister Hamza would lose majority in the Punjab Assembly once the ECP notified members on the reserved seats, as ordered by the court. Its lawyers said the number of opposition lawmakers would surpass that of the government, and the CM would need to get a vote of confidence from the house.

However, the numbers in the assembly show a different situation, as the coalition government enjoys the support of 177 MPAs, including 165 of the PML-N, seven of the PPP, four independents and the lone from the Rah-i-Haq Party.

PTI lawyers see Hamza losing numbers game in Punjab Assembly after the development

On the other hand, the opposition members even after the inclusion of five reserved seats would stand at 173, including 158 of the PTI and 10 of the PML-Q.

Although a written copy of the order is yet to be released, the PML-N announced it would challenge the decision before a division bench through an intra-court appeal.

Earlier, during the hearing, Barrister Syed Ali Zafar appearing on behalf of the PTI argued that the scheme for the election on reserved seats and the method and procedure for filling their vacancies had been clearly prescribed in the Constitution and there was no confusion in this regard.

He submitted that each party, before the general elections, gave lists of candidates for reserved seats in an order of preference which, under the law, could not be changed during the pre-defined tenure of five years of the assembly concerned.

The counsel argued that the Constitution did not provide for re-calculation of the proportional strength of each party every time there was a by-election on the general seats, but instead the document very clearly provided that any vacancy of the reserved seats shall be filled in according to the proportionality determined immediately after the general elections and as per party list.

Opposing the petition, Punjab Advocate General Shahzad Shaukat said the notification about the reserved seats was issued after the general election. He said the party position in the assembly had been changed after the de-seating of 25 MPAs. He said a larger bench should be constituted to decide the matter.

However, Justice Waheed allowed the PTI’s petition and set aside the ECP’s decision with a direction to issue a notification of MPAs on the five reserved seats of the petitioner/party.

Later, PTI Central Punjab president Dr Yasmin Rashid hailed the court verdict striking down the ECP order regarding the reserved seats.

Speaking at a press conference, she said the decision was a victory for the PTI against the “illegal” Hamza Shehbaz government. She claimed the provincial government had lost its legal position after the court’s decision.

Dr Rashid alleged that attempts were being made by “institutions” to push the PTI against the wall, adding a plan had been devised to snatch the mandate of the PTI in the by-election on the 20 seats. However, she said her party would win the polls with the support of the masses and again make its government in the province.

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2022

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