Friday May 20, 2022
ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday unseated the 25 dissident members of the PTI while announcing its verdict in a case pertaining to the dissident members of the Punjab Assembly (MPAs).
The ECP announced the unanimous verdict while accepting the reference — submitted by Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi — against PTI's dissident members who voted for Hamza Shahbaz in the election of Punjab chief minister.
"MPAs defected from the party by voting in favour of Hamza Shahbaz," the ECP said in the verdict.
In the election for the chief minister's slot on April 16, 2022, PML-N leader Hamza Shahbaz received 197 votes as opposed to the required number of 186 in the House of 371, meaning the support of PTI's dissident members was crucial for his victory.
Hamza will now lose the majority as the seats of the dissident members have become vacant.
The verdict has gained special significance after the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 63(A), holding that the vote of dissident MPs cannot be counted.
The ECP bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, had reserved the verdict on Tuesday after listening to the arguments of PTI lawmakers.
The dissident members had argued that since they did not get any clear policy guidelines from the parliamentary party, and in the absence of any direction, the party cannot move against them.
Earlier, the ECP — in its May 11 verdict — rejected the disqualification reference against the MNAs of the PTI involved in floor-crossing during the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan. The ECP said in its verdict that the reference against 20 MNAs of the PTI was not proved.
Who are the unseated MPAs?
A total of 16 of these MPAs belong to the disgruntled Jahangir Tareen group, five to the Aleem Khan group and four to the Asad Khokhar group of PTI.
There are a total of 371 members in the Punjab Assembly, and after the unseating of the 25 members, there will be a total of 346 members in the House.
Of the total number of MPs who have been unseated, five held special seats. And after getting the five reserved seats, the number of PTI members will increase to 163.
The PML-Q has ten members in the Punjab Assembly, while the number of opposition members in the provincial assembly is 177.
Among the 177 members, there are 165 members of PML-N, seven members of the PPP, one member of Rah-e-Haq Party and four independent candidates.
If the four deviant PML-N members do not cast their votes, only 173 will be left in the opposition.
Amid the new situation, the votes of Chaudhry Nisar and the four independent candidates will be very important.
Speaking to journalists outside the ECP, former planning minister and senior PTI leader Asad Umar congratulated the nation, saying “another chapter of heinous politics has closed today”.
“Some of the political parties have used politics for businesses as they are involved in horse-trading,” Umar said, adding that these people [the current leadership] come into power by investing money and earn more by misusing their power.
He highlighted that it was the former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan who stood against such political practices.
Referring to the Supreme Court’s verdict on Article 63(A), Umar said that first, the apex court’s verdict and now the ECP’s decision is a “great achievement”.
Highlighting that these 25 turncoats are no longer members of the provincial assembly, Umar expressed his sympathy for those who have invested in them.
He reiterated that the time for consultations is over and the coalition government should announce fresh elections.
However, the politician said that PTI doesn't trust the CEC.
"His [CEC Raja's] status would be doubtful if he supervises the elections."
Commenting on the prevailing economic crises in the country, Umar said: “The economy is stagnant. There is uncertainty. The country has witnessed external interference and bidding of conscience […] now people want to see change,” he said.
Meanwhile, PTI leader and former state minister for information and broadcasting Farrukh Habib said that the verdict has "crushed the turncoats badly".
"The way to Changa Manga markets has been blocked forever in Pakistan. The votes of 220 million people will be cast instead of those who sell their loyalties," he said.
Habib added that constitutionally, Hamza Shahbaz was no more the chief minister of Punjab.
The politician urged the government "not to cause harm to the country anymore" and go for an election immediately.
Reacting to the development, PML-N vice-president Maryam Nawaz said no matter what the PTI does, their dream of snatching Punjab from the lion [PML-N] will be shattered.
She claimed that the people of Punjab were extremely angry over the "loot and plunder" committed by Farah Khan, so they will avenge this by defeating them [PTI] in the next elections.
In a major development, the SC ruled earlier this week that the votes of the dissident members of Parliament (MPs), cast against their parliamentary party's directives, cannot be counted.
The court, issuing its verdict on the presidential reference seeking the interpretation of Article 63(A) of the Constitution related to defecting lawmakers, said that the law cannot be interpreted in isolation.
The reference was filed by President Arif Alvi on March 21. The hearings continued for 58 days since its filing.
Hamza was elected as chief minister of Punjab in a ruckus-marred session of the Punjab Assembly on April 16, 2022.
Ahead of the vote, three PTI members of the Punjab Assembly were arrested for attacking Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari as the party boycotted the session to elect the new chief minister.
Hamza was elected as the chief minister with 197 votes. While his opponent, Elahi, did not receive any votes as his party and PTI had boycotted the polls.
During the assembly's session, the lawmakers of the ruling party had thrown "lotas" at Mazari and attacked the deputy speaker and pulled his hair despite the presence of security guards. The deputy speaker left the hall after this and the session was delayed. Before assaulting Mazari, the PTI lawmakers caused a ruckus when they brought "lotas" to the house and started chanting "lota, lota" (turncoats) as they lashed out at dissident PTI MPAs who parted ways with the party and decided to support the Opposition.