The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday de-seated 25 dissident Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers of the Punjab Assembly for defecting from the party after violating party discipline by voting for Hamza Shehbaz as chief minister. In its ruling, it said that their seats in the Punjab Assembly had now been vacated.
The electoral body had reserved its verdict on the reference on May 17, saying it would be announced the next day. However, the announcement was postponed after the Supreme Court issued its ruling on a presidential reference seeking its interpretation of Article 63A, which relates to the disqualification of lawmakers if they violate party instructions on votes for the election of either the prime minister or chief minister; a vote of confidence or no-confidence; a money bill; or a constitutional amendment.
In its ruling, the apex court said that votes cast against party direction cannot be counted and must be disregarded. It said that, with reference to Parliament, the fundamental rights of political parties superseded the rights of individual lawmakers. With the de-seating of the 25 dissident lawmakers, PMLN’s Hamza has lost his razor-thin majority in the Punjab Assembly—he won the election with 197 votes against the 186 required for a simple majority.
Discounting the de-seated lawmakers, the chief minister now has 172 votes, including four independents, requiring a run-off election between him and Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid)’s Pervez Elahi, with the victor having to secure the majority of the votes remaining in the Assembly.
The dissident lawmakers who have been de-seated by the ECP are: Raja Sagheer Ahmed; Malik Ghulam Rasool Sangha; Saeed Akbar Khan; Mohammad Ajmal; Abdul Aleem Khan; Nazir Ahmed Chohan; Mohammad Amin Zulqernain; Malik Nauman Langrial; Mohammad Salman; Zawar Hussain Warraich; Nazir Ahmed Khan; Fida Hussain; Zahra Batool; Muhammad Tahir; Aisha Nawaz; Sajida Yousaf; Haroon Imran Gill; Uzma Kardar; Malik Asad Ali; Ijaz Masih; Mohammad Sibtain Raza; Mohsin Atta Khan Khosa; Mian Khalid Mehmood; Mehar Mohammad Aslam; and Faisal Hayat.
Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who contested the chief minister’s election against Hamza and is currently facing a no-confidence motion, had sent the reference against the PTI dissidents to the ECP on April 16 over their violation of party policy in the chief minister’s election.
Both the PTI and Elahi have approached the Lahore High Court to declare Hamza’s election as “illegal” in light of the apex court’s interpretation of Article 63A. The case would resume hearings from next week.