LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has hinted at holding fresh election for the post of Punjab’s chief minister under April 16 circumstances, when incumbent Hamza Shehbaz was elected in a poll on a court order.

A five-member bench of the LHC made the observation on Tuesday while hearing appeals of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Pak­istan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) and Punjab Asse­mbly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi against different single-bench decisions regarding the election and oath-taking of CM Shehbaz.

Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan, who heads the larger bench, asked Advocate General for Punjab (AGP) Shahzad Shaukat and the appellants’ counsel to assist the court on a point whether the crisis could be solved if a fresh election was conducted under the same position of April 16.

The judge observed that the fresh polling would be conducted by the same presiding officer who held the previous poll, who in this case is Punjab Assembly’s Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari.

At this, PTI’s counsel Syed Ali Zafar pointed out that the April election conducted by the deputy speaker had already been challenged before the court.

However, the judge maintained that the deputy speaker would conduct the fresh polling, if held, as there was an order by the court.

Mr Zafar further argued that the fresh election would be unconstitutional if held while Hamza Shehbaz remained in office and pointed out that former chief minister Usman Buzdar had caretaker charge of the office when the previous election was held. He said 10 days should be given before holding a new election.

He also argued that the situation could not be reversed to the position of April 16 as 25 MPAs, who defected in the election, had been de-seated and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had also been directed by the court to notify new MPAs on five reserved seats.

The bench, however, observed that the presiding officer would count the majority in the house after excluding the de-seated MPAs.

Justice Khan observed that the Supreme Court had already declared that the votes of the defectors were not to be counted and “this court can issue an order for implementing the Supreme Court’s decision”.

The judge observed that the PTI’s counsel was asking for 10 days in the new election so that the ECP issued notification of the MPAs on five reserved seats.

“They cannot cast a vote in the new election even if the ECP notifies the MPAs on the reserved seats,” the judge told the counsel, who argued that the new MPAs on reserved seats would cast their vote in the fresh election.

AGP Shaukat also sought one day’s time to seek instructions from CM Shehbaz on the question of a new election posed by the bench.

Earlier, the bench asked the parties to come up with suggestions for the new election by noon. However, the bench later adjourned the hearing until Wednesday (today).

Besides Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan, other members of the LHC bench include Justice Shahid Jamil Khan, Justice Shehram Sarwar Chaudhry, Justice Sajid Mahmood Sethi and Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2022

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