Wednesday May 18, 2022
ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) reserved its decision on a petition to disqualify PTI's 25 dissident MPAs on Tuesday, and is likely to announce it today (Wednesday).
Punjab Assembly Speaker Pervez Elahi had filed a reference with the ECP against these MPAs under Article 63(A) of the Constitution for voting in favour of PML-N's Hamza Shahbaz in the election for the Punjab chief minister.
Both sides had already concluded arguments before the ECP’s three-member bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja.
As the bench took up the reference for hearing Tuesday, dissident MPAs’ representative Khalid Ishaq contended the lawmakers had neither received an invitation nor the agenda for the April 1 parliamentary party meeting, adding only two members had received the show-cause notices.
He also said that the dissidents didn't get the April 18 declaration of disqualification and that his clients weren't given a chance to explain their position.
He maintained that the PTI parliamentary party's decision is nowhere to be found, and alleged that a false document was furnished after the parliamentary party's meeting. However, the lawyer was in agreement with PTI's counsel Barrister Ali Zafar's remarks that "floor crossing is cancer," but noted that party dictatorship is also cancer. He argued that even if party chairman Imran's instructions were "correct", the MPAs could not be disqualified. He contended that the legislators were instructed to be present in the House and vote for Pervez Elahi, and that the MPAs were free to vote independently once Elahi boycotted the election.
He emphasised, "Nowhere did the party chairman issue instructions to not vote for the opposite candidate in case of a boycott".
Responding to the argument that the MPAs were not aware of the directions of the parliamentary party about voting for Pervez Elahi, PTI's counsel Senator Barrister Syed Ali Zafar remarked, "This reminds me of what we call the sleepwalking defence". It is a term used for a legal argument that a criminal defendant is not culpable because he or she acted while in a sleep-like state, without consciousness or intent to commit a crime.
Ali Zafar then referred to a case where a person had killed someone in a busy market in broad daylight and he engaged one of the most famous criminal lawyers who took the absurd defence that his client did it while sleepwalking. He said the argument did not work and the judges sent the murderer to the gallows. He said the defectors were doing exactly what the murdered had done.
He remarked, "When the whole world and nation knew about it and the same was being discussed in talk shows and reported in the newspapers, it was like saying that the MPAs were, though awake, yet sleeping all this time."
He defended the parliamentary party meeting and explained that the parliamentary party met on April 1 and the media reported its decision the next day. Also, he said, all MPAs got notices from the chief whip on April 2, and PTI Secretary-General Asad Umar sent another notice on April 4.
Then, Ali Zafar continued, the party again met on April 5 and reached the same decision, sending the third notice on April 7. The minutes of both meetings were produced. They were reported in the media and discussed in programmes, he added.
"The voting took place in front of the entire nation and was covered live by electronic media". No one denied the vote. Again, a show-cause notice was issued on April 16, but the MPAs chose not to appear before the party head, hence they were rightly declared to have defected, he explained.
He pleaded to the ECP bench that defectors would have to be de-seated as they had cast their vote against party directions, and any other decision by the bench would mean frustrating the aspirations of the people and defeating the provisions of the Constitution.
However, when he contended that he had also submitted the receipts of courier services as evidence, Advocate Salman Akram Raja, who represented Aleem Khan, raised an objection, and said that additional documents could not be submitted at this stage — a contention accepted by the ECP, refusing to allow the PTI to submit those receipts.
Ali Zafar said that in their written responses to the ECP, the MPAs had admitted defection, and that the purpose of the ECP's hearing was to remove any shortcomings in the party chairman's declaration.
The ECP, after hearing both sides, reserved judgment, which is likely to be announced today (Wednesday).
The dissident lawmakers include Abdul Aleem Khan, Raja Sagheer Ahmed, Malik Ghulam Rasool Sangha, Saeed Akbar Khan, Mohammad Ajmal, Nazir Ahmed Chohan, Mohammad Amin Zulqernain, Malik Nauman Langrial, Mohammad Salman, Zawar Hussain Warraich, Nazir Ahmed Khan, Fida Hussain, Zahra Batool, Mohammad Tahir, Aisha Nawaz, Sajida Yousaf, Haroon Imran Gill, Uzma Kardar, Malik Asad Ali, Ijaz Masih, Mohammad Sabtain Raza, Mohsin Atta Khan Khosa, Mian Khalid Mehmood, Faisal Hayat and Mehar Mohammad Aslam.