The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday dismissed references filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) against 20 dissident members of the National Assembly and said it would not de-seat them from Parliament.
Following the ouster of the PTI-led government through a vote of no-confidence in the Lower House of Parliament, the party had filed references against dissident MNAs, claiming they had violated party discipline and should be proceeded against under Article 63A of the Constitution. Last month, the ECP issued notices to the 20 MNAs, directing them to appear before it and justify their actions.
In written replies, the dissident MNAs stressed that they not resigned from the PTI or joined any other party. They also emphasized that they have never voted against their party’s instructions and questioned how they would be penalized for an act they had never committed. One MNA claimed that the PTI was trying to impose a “dictatorial” rule on them by punishing any dissenters and discouraging future criticism against the party chairman from within its ranks.
After completing hearings, and rejecting a bid by the PTI to submit “additional evidence” against the dissidents MNAs, the electoral body reserved its verdict in the case earlier on Wednesday before issuing it in the afternoon.
According to the PTI, the dissident MNAs took bribes from the former opposition and had intended to vote against party lines in the National Assembly. However, the dissidents refuted these allegations, stressing that they would vote in accordance with their conscience and had not been part of any horse-trading. Prior to sending references against the dissidents, the PTI had also issued show-cause notices to them and sought explanations on why they should not be de-seated through Article 63A of the Constitution.
Under Article 63A of the Constitution, a parliamentarian can be disqualified for defection if they either vote, or abstain from voting, in the Lower House against directions issued to them by their parliamentary party on the election of the prime minister or chief minister; a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or the finance bill or a Constitutional amendment. According to Article 63A, the party head has to declare in writing that the MNAs have defected and must provide each parliamentarian the opportunity to prove why they should not be penalized. If the lawmakers cannot justify their actions to the satisfaction of the party chief, a declaration of their defection is sent to the National Assembly speaker, who must then forward it to the chief election commissioner. The CEC must then confirm or reject the declaration within 30 days.
The PTI had filed references against MNAs Noor Alam Khan, Aamir Liaquat Hussain, Mohammad Afzal Khan Dhandla, Nawab Sher Waseer, Raja Riaz Ahmad, Ahmed Hussain Deharr, Rana Mohammad Qasim Noon, Asim Nazeer, Amjad Farooq Khosa, Chaudhry Farrukh Altaf, Syed Mobeen Ahmed, Samiul Hassan Gillani, Mohammad Abdul Ghaffar Wattoo, Basit Ahmad Sultan, Aamir Talal Gopang, Sardar Riaz Mehmood Khan Mazari, Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, Wajiha Qamar, Nuzhat Pathan and Javeria Zafar. None of them voted in the no-confidence motion, with the opposition managing to oust Imran Khan with the support of political parties that had formerly been allied with the PTI.
The ECP has not yet issued a detailed verdict, which would lay out the reasoning behind its ruling. However, legal experts say it is likely that the decision was based on the fact that the MNAs never voted against party discipline, allowing them to remain members of the Lower House.