The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday formally notified five members of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on reserved seats in the Punjab Assembly in accordance with a ruling of the Lahore High Court (LHC).
“The ECP is pleased to declare Habkook Rafiq Babbu and Samuel Yaqoob as returned candidates on seats reserved for non-Muslims in the provincial assembly of Punjab, which fell vacant due to de-notification of Ijaz Masih and Haroon Imran Gill vide ECP’s Notification No. F. 17(2)/2022-Cord. (3) dated May 23, 2022,” read the notification.
Separately, the ECP also declared Batool Zain, Saira Raza, and Fouzia Abbas Naseem as returned candidates on reserved seats for women in the Punjab Assembly, replacing Uzma Kardar, Aisah Nawaz, and Sajida Yousaf, who had been de-seated after they voted against party lines in the election for chief minister of Punjab.
On June 2, the ECP had announced it would notify the new candidates for the reserved seats after by-elections—scheduled for July 17—in line with the strength of the provincial assembly after polling. The PTI had contested this in the LHC, which had ruled on June 27 that the ECP must notify the members in line with the strength of the Punjab Assembly after the 2018 general elections.
The total strength of the Punjab Assembly has become a key source of concern, as it could determine whether incumbent Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz would remain in power or be voted out. The provincial assembly has a total of 371 lawmakers, 20 of which fell vacant after they voted against party lines for Shehbaz. The current strength of the Punjab Assembly is 351.
The ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) has 165 members; the Pakistan Peoples Party 7; and there are five independents, of which four support the PMLN. By contrast the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has 163—including the new reserved members—and also enjoys the support of 10 lawmakers of the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid). The last seat is currently held by the Rah-e-Haq party.