The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday said that it will notify allocation for five reserved seats of the Punjab Assembly after by-elections have been conducted for 20 vacant seats in the House.
The seats were vacated last month after the ECP denotified 25 dissident lawmakers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), including five reserved MPAs, for voting in favor of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)’s Hamza Shehbaz as chief minister of Punjab against party instructions to vote for PMLQ’s Pervaiz Elahi.
While the 20 general seats would proceed to by-elections later this month, there has been much speculation over the reserved seats—three women and two minority members—as the PTI maintains they should be automatically notified on the basis of the total number of general seats secured by each political party in the 2018 general elections. In this scenario, the PTI would regain five lawmakers in the Punjab Assembly, which could potentially allow it to vote Shehbaz out of office by seeking a fresh vote of confidence.
In its ruling, the five-member bench of the ECP said it would allocate the reserved seats only after by-elections had taken place—on July 17—on the basis of the new party position in a setback for both the PMLN and the PTI. Earlier, the PTI’s counsel had maintained that the ECP must notify replacement members to the reserved seats in accordance with the results of the 2018 general elections under Section 104 of the Elections Act, 2017. By contrast, the PMLN’s counsel had claimed that the ECP should notify replacements on the reserved seats on the basis of the current proportion in the Punjab Assembly. He had claimed that the principle of proportional representation did not apply to the provincial assembly at this juncture, as the electoral college was incomplete.
In his arguments, Attorney-General of Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf had said that the positions of both the PTI and the PMLN were not appropriate in the current scenario. “Twenty of PTI’s seats have been reduced, after which they cannot have the same proportion. Nobody can tell which party will be successful in by-elections,” he had said, adding that it would be “more appropriate” if the ECP waited until the results of the by-elections.
PTI’s leaders have vowed to appeal the ECP’s decision before the Supreme Court.