• Speaker suspends PML-N’s 23, PPP’s two, and one member each of PML-Q, IPP
• Decision announced on point of order raised by PTI-backed SIC leader
• In National Assembly, ruling coalition also likely to lose 23 seats ahead of budget session

LAHORE / ISLAMABAD: The ruling coalition in Punjab led by PML-N on Friday lost dozens of reserved seats in the provincial assembly when the speaker suspended 24 women and three minority MPAs elected on reserved seats and barred them from joining the house proceedings.

Twenty-three of the suspended MPAs belonged to PML-N, two to PPP and one each to PML-Q and IPP.

Speaker Malik Mohammad Ahmed Khan took the decision on a point of order raised a day ago by opposition lawmaker Rana Aftab of PTI-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) during the house proceedings.

The opposition member had argued that the Supreme Court had suspended the decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of allocating the reserved seats of SIC to other parties on the plea that the SIC had neither contested elections nor had submitted a list of nominees for the seats reserved for women and minorities.

But Speaker Khan ruled that he had sought opinions of the advocate general as well as the provincial law department and would take a decision only on receiving their reports.

Soon after the beginning of house proceedings on Friday, the speaker read out the Supreme Court order and gave the ruling that Rana Aftab’s point of order was lawful and suspended the 27 members immediately.

When Mr Aftab pointed out that the suspended MPAs had unlawfully voted for the resolution condemning May 9 violence, the chair said he should have raised the issue when the resolution had been put to vote a day ago.

The women MPAs suspended were Maqsoodan Bibi, Rubina Nazir, Salma Zahid, Kanwal Nauman, Zeba Ghafoor, Saeeda Samreen Taj, Sheharbano, Amna Parveen, Syed Sumera Ahmed, Uzma Butt, Afshan Hussain, Shagufta Faisal, Nasreen Riaz, Sajida Naveed, Farzana Abbas, Mariya Talal, Tasheen Fawad, Abida Bashir, Saeeda Muzaffar, Faiza Monima, Amera Khan, Samiya Ata, Rahat Afza and Rukhsana Shafiq.

The minority MPAs were Tariq Masih Gill, Waseem Anjum, and Basroji.

National Assembly

After the Supreme Court’s decision and the Punjab Assembly speaker’s action, the ruling coalition in the National Assembly is also set to lose nearly two dozen members ahead of the crucial budget session.

President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday summoned the National Assembly session on Monday (May 13) and the SIC members are expected to seek a similar ruling from Speaker Ayaz Sadiq.

After allocating reserved seats to the parties in the NA in proportion to the general seats won by them in the Feb 8 elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had withheld the notifications on 23 reserved seats — 20 for women and three for minorities — due to the dispute on the allocation of the seats after the decision of the PTI-backed independents to join the SIC.

Later, the ECP refused to allocate these seats to the SIC and issued notifications distributing these seats to the parties in the ruling coalition headed by the PML-N. The ECP allocated 15 seats reserved for women to the PML-N, four to PPP and one to the JUI-F. It allocated one seat each reserved for the minorities to the PML-N, the PPP and the MQM-P.

As a result, PML-N became the largest party in the NA with 123 seats whereas the tallies of PPP and the JUI-F rose to 73 and 11, respectively.

The ECP had also issued notifications on the reserved seats for women and minorities in Punjab and the KP assemblies the same day.

The PML-N had initially won a total of 75 general seats and was joined by nine independents. With the allocation of 19 reserved seats for women and four reserved seats for minorities, the number reached 107. However, after the March 5 notifications, the PML-N had been allocated 15 out of the remaining 20 reserved seats for women and one out of the three remaining seats reserved for minorities, taking the party’s tally to 123 seats.

Likewise, PPP had won 54 general seats and was allocated 12 seats reserved for women and two for minorities. After the allocation of four more seats reserved for women and one for minorities on March 5, the number of the PPP lawmakers is now 73, still fewer than the PTI-backed independents who had joined the SIC hoping to get reserved seats.

The MQM-Pakistan has 22 members in the National Assembly, while the number of JUI-F lawmakers had gone up to 11 from seven.

The SC decision is expected to have no effect in the composition of the Balochistan Assembly as PTI had not won any seat in the province in the Feb 8 polls. However, in the provincial assembly of Sindh, the two reserved seats for women were given to PPP from the share of the PTI-SIC, which had nine members.

KP Assembly

The most interesting distribution of reserved seats had been observed in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, where the PTI-backed independents had won 91 seats compared to just 19 seats secured by all other political parties combined.

However, the JUI-F, which could get only seven general seats to stay on top among these political parties, was allocated 10 reserved seats for women. Likewise, the PML-N, which won six general seats, was given eight reserved seats. The PPP, which bagged four general seats, was allocated six reserved seats. The ANP and the PTI-P, which clinched one general seat each, also remained lucky to have their numbers double in the provincial assembly. However, these MPAs in KP Assembly have not yet taken oath as the speaker has refused to call the session.

Gwadar killings

Meanwhile, the Punjab Assembly during its Friday’s sitting adopted a resolution condemning the recent killing of 11 workers belonging to Punjab in Gwadar.

The resolution presented by treasury members Amjad Ali Javed demanded the federal government arrest the culprits.

It also demanded that the centre announce a compensation package for the heirs of the deceased.

South Punjab

On a point of order raised by opposition MPA Nadeem Qureshi, Punjab Finance Minister Mujtaba Shuja told the house that the south Punjab secretariat was not being wrapped up; rather the officers who had been promoted were being replaced by new appointments.

The minister also rejected the stance that the PML-N was against the development of south Punjab and said that the region had been developed the most when incumbent Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was the chief minister of Punjab.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2024

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