ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Wednes­day filed an application with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seeking notification of five of its members of the Punjab Assembly against reserved seats that fell vacant after disqualification of 25 MPAs on the ground of defection.

“The court’s order is out on reserved seats. Today, we have submitted an application demanding the ECP issue the notification on these seats because there is an illegal government in Punjab right now,” PTI’s central secretary general Asad Umar told reporters.

PTI’s senior vice president Fawad Chaudhry and former human rights minister Dr Shireen Mazari were also present on the occasion.

The application was filed with the ECP two days after the Lahore High Court (LHC) instructed it to notify the PTI members on five reserved seats of the Punjab Assembly.

Party urges ECP to notify its MPAs on reserved seats

Last month, 25 PTI dissident MPAs, including the five elected on seats reserved for women and minorities, were de-seated for voting for PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz in the election for chief minister. They were officially de-notified by the ECP on May 23.

Asad Umar claimed that the Punjab government was on its way out and alleged that the ECP and ‘other institutions’ were trying to save the unconstitutional government in Punjab. He also accused the PML-N-led government of trying to rig the upcoming by-polls on 20 seats of Punjab Assembly. He said that it was the ECP’s responsibility to hold transparent elections.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Mazari demanded that Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja should immediately resign, saying he had “lost all credibility”.

“The problem is that the CEC is trying to change the Constitution. The way he has stopped the notification on reserved seats shows that he is violating the law,” she claimed.

The ECP, Dr Mazari continued, could no longer hold transparent elections. “It is time for the Supreme Court to take action.”

She was of the view that the CEC should voluntarily resign because his efforts to take decisions against the Constitution were continuously being rejected by higher courts.

Mr Chaudhry claimed that the National Assembly was being run on ‘phone calls’. “You are seeing what has been hap­pening in the parliament for the past three days. Two days ago, BAP (Balochistan Awami Party) said that the assembly is being run on phone calls.

“Yesterday, Fehmida Mirza said the same thing,” he said while alluding towards comments made by Aslam Bhootani, an independent MNA from Balochistan, during the budget debate in the NA earlier this week.

The lawmaker had lodged a strong protest against Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal for not including development schemes in his Lasbela constituency in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), despite repeated requests by PPP’s Asif Ali Zardari and even Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Mr Chaudhry claimed that the assembly was no longer independent as its “biased” speaker was running a “biased” session.

He said that the Constitution had been “abandoned” since May 25, claiming that none of the functions in the state were being performed as per the Constitution.

“Why isn’t the Supreme Court hearing the reference filed by Faisal Vawda? Why isn’t it forming a commission on the cipher despite several letters written by the president? What will you achieve out of isolating the PTI? Are you expecting the country’s biggest political party to form militant wings? Are you expecting it to engage in bloodshed?” he asked.

All these things, the former minister said, were causing a crisis in the country. “And the only way out is to hold fresh elections. Political stability comes when you abide by the Cons­titution. And that happens when you go towards fresh elections.”

Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2022

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