The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday officially de-notified 25 dissident PTI lawmakers who voted for the PML-N's Hamza Shehbaz in the Punjab chief minister election.
The votes of the 25 PTI dissidents had been instrumental in helping Hamza get over the line; he received a total of 197 votes while 186 votes are required for a simple majority. Since these 25 lawmakers are no longer members of the House, Hamza has lost his majority.
Last week, the electoral watchdog had passed an order to de-seat these lawmakers, stating that they had defected from the party under Article 63-A of the Constitution, which bars lawmakers from voting against party line in the election of prime minister and chief minister, in a vote of confidence or no-confidence, a Constitution amendment bill and a money bill.
In the notifications issued today, the commission de-notified 20 lawmakers elected on general seats as well as five others elected on reserved seats.
The dissident lawmakers 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, Mohammad Tahir, Aisha Nawaz, Sajida Yousaf, Haroon Imran Gill, Uzma Kardar, Malik Asad Ali, Ijaz Masih, Mohammad Sabtain Raza, Mohsin Atta Khan Khosa, Mian Khalid Mehmood, Mehar Mohammad Aslam and Faisal Hayat.
The allocation of five vacant reserved seats will assume an important role if the run-off election is held.
The ECP, according to legal experts, will now distribute these seats as per the current strength of each party in the Punjab Assembly — meaning if the PTI gets the most share it may be able to clinch the coveted chief minister’s post.
The Punjab Assembly’s current strength is 346 members: the PTI has 158 lawmakers, its ally PML-Q 10, the PML-N 165, PPP seven, five independents and one Rah-i-Haq Party. However, five 'rebel' PML-N lawmakers are not expected to support their party in the CM election.
ECP de-seats 25 dissident PTI MPAs
The ECP's decision to de-seat the lawmakers came days after the Supreme Court's decision on a presidential reference seeking its interpretation of Article 63-A, related to the disqualification of lawmakers over defection. The apex court had ruled that the votes of defecting lawmakers would not be counted.
In its judgement, the ECP said it had two options — to ignore the completion of actus reus (voting in favour of opposite candidate) on the grounds of non-fulfilment of prerequisites as mentioned in Article 63-A and decline the declarations or hold that voting against party policies was a "serious matter" as observed by the Supreme Court.
"We are of the view that the casting of votes by the respondent[s] in favour of opposing candidate is a serious issue and worst form of betrayal of the electorate and party's policy. Therefore, we hold that the defection in the subject cases shall not depend upon strict proof of observance of prerequisites as provided in Article 63-A.
"We have arrived at the conclusion that participation of the respondents in the election of chief minister of Punjab and casting their votes in favour of opposing candidate has established the factum of defection on the basis of the subject declarations against all the respondents.
"The declarations are confirmed and the respondents cease to be members of Punjab Assembly and their seats become vacant."