ISLAMABAD: Respon­ding to objections raised against PTI leader Zain Qu­­reshi’s membership of the Punjab Assembly that he won in the recent by-elections, the Election Com­mis­sion of Pakistan (ECP) main­­tained that it held no water, as Mr Qureshi ceased to be a member of the Natio­nal Assembly the moment he took oath as an MPA.

An ECP official told Dawn that under the Constitution no individual could concurrently hold seats in two separate houses of parliament or a provincial assembly, but added it was the discretion of the individual to decide which seat to keep, after winning another seat.

The commission was commenting on the situation that arose at the outset of Friday’s Punjab Assembly session to elect a chief minister, when PML-N MPA Khalil Tahir Sandhu, speaking on a point of order, claimed newly minted PTI MPA Zain Qureshi was still an MNA as his resignation (along with those of all PTI lawmakers in the lower house) had yet to be accepted by the NA speaker, and that he could not cast his vote in the CM’s election.

PA Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari replied that under Article 223(4) of the Constitution, a member ceased to be an MNA after he became an MPA. Subsequently, he allowed Mr Qureshi to cast his vote.

Commission cites Article 223 in response to objections to PTI leader Zain Qureshi’s right to vote in Punjab CM’s poll

Mr Sandhu also raised an objection against the right to vote of PTI MPA Shabbir Gujjar, saying the latter had a case pending in the ECP. At this, PTI’s former law minister Raja Basharat said the election commission had granted Gujjar permission to vote. Subsequently, Mazari turned down the objection.

Explaining Article 223(1) of the Constitution, the ECP official said “no person shall, at the same time, be a member of both Houses, or a House and a provincial assembly; or the Assemblies of two or more Provinces; or a House or a Provincial Assembly in respect of more than one seat”.

He further said Article 223(2) of the Constitution reads: “Nothing in clause (1) shall prevent a person from being a candidate for two or more seats at the same time, whether in the same body or in different bodies, but if he is elected to more than one seat he shall, within a period of thirty days after the declaration of the result for the last such seat, resign all but one of his seats, and if he does not so resign, all the seats to which he has been elected shall become vacant at the expiration of the said period of thirty days except the seat to which he has been elected last or, if he has been elected to more than one seat on the same day, the seat for election to which his nomination was filed last.”

Zain Qureshi, the son of former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, had won from Multan’s PP-217 constituency in last Sunday’s by-polls, defeating his opponent, PML-N’s Muhammad Salman Naeem, with a wide margin.

Previously, he was elected as a member of the National Assembly from NA-157 Multan in August 2018 and was among the 131 PTI MNAs to have tendered their resignations from the lower house in May after former premier Imran Khan was ousted through a no-confidence vote.

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2022

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