Voting for Hamza: ECP de-seats 25 PTI dissidents

Mumtaz Alvi & Sher Ali Khalti
Saturday, May 21, 2022

ISLAMABAD/ LAHORE: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Friday de-seated 25 members of the Punjab Assembly belonging to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for voting for the PMLN candidate, Hamza Shehbaz, against party directions during the election for the Punjab chief minister.

The three-member ECP bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, unanimously held in its 23-page verdict that participation of the respondents in the election of chief minister Punjab and casting their votes in favour of the opponent party’s candidate had established the factum of defection on the basis of the subject declarations against all of them.

The bench observed in its verdict that the declarations are confirmed and the respondents cease to be members of the Punjab Assembly and their seats stand vacant. The bench said, “…we are of the view that the casting of votes by the respondent in favour of opposing candidate is a serious issue and the worst form of betraying 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 pre-requisites as provided in Article 63-A”.The names of the de-seated legislators of the PTI are: Raja Sagheer Ahmed (PP-7, Rawalpindi), Malik Ghulam Rasool Sangha (PP-83 Khushab), Saeed Akbar Khan (PP-90, Bhakkar), Muhammad Ajmal (PP-97, Faisalabad), Abdul Aleem Khan (PP-158, Lahore), Nazir Ahmed Chohan (PP-167 Lahore), Muhammad Amin Zulqarnain (PP-170 Lahore), Malik Nauman Langrial (PP-202 Sahiwal), Muhammad Salman (PP-217 Multan), Zawar Hussain Warraich (PP-224, Lodhran), Nazir Ahmed Khan (PP-228 Lodhran), Fida Hussain (PP-237 Bahawalnagar), Ms Zahra Batool (PP-272, Muzaffargarh), Muhammad Tahir (PP-282 Layyah), Ms Aisha Nawaz (reserved seat for women), Ms Sajida Yousaf (reserved seat for women), Haroon Imran Gill (reserved seat for minorities), Ms Uzma Kardar (reserved seat for women), Malik Asad Ali (PP-168 Lahore), Ijaz Masih (reserved seat for minorities), Muhammad Sibtain Raza (PP-273 Muzaffargarh), Mohsin Atta Khan Khosa (PP-288 DG Khan), Mian Khalid Mehmood (PP-140 Sheikhupura), Mehar Muhammad Aslam (PP-127 Jhang) and Faisal Hayat (PP-125, Jhang).

Five de-seated MPAs belong to the Aleem Khan group, four to Asad Khokhar group and 16 to Jahangir Khan Tareen group, according to the party sources.

However, as per the law, those aggrieved by the decision have the option of filing an appeal before the Supreme Court within 30 days, following the ECP decision, which has been announced on the heels of the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s interpretation of Article 63-A, holding that the vote of dissident MPs cannot be counted.

In the election for the chief minister’s slot on April 16, PMLN leader Hamza Shehbaz got 197 votes, though the required number was 186 in the House of 371. However, following the ECP decision, the strength of his votes in the House has now reduced to 172, and hence he is 14 short of the minimum required 186 members.

“A question arises if issuance of any formal direction to the respondents would still be required in defection cases where wide publicity of decision of the party was talk of the town and aired through different news channels and also flashed on print, electronic and social media,” the ECP said.

The ECP bench also observed that declarations seeking disqualification varies on case to case basis and that the act of defection has been seriously viewed and denounced by the august Supreme Court in a number of pronouncements and reproduced few of them. “Defection of elected members has many vices. In the first place, if the member has been elected on the basis of a manifesto, or on account of his affiliation with a political party, or on account of his particular stand on a question of public importance, his defection amounts to a clear breach of confidence reposed in him by the electorate. If his conscience dictates to him so, or he considers it expedient, the only course open to him is to resign to shed off his representative character which he no longer represents and to fight a re-election,” one of the cited judgments says.

The order also pointed out, citing another SC judgment, that “defection on political parlance, as stated in Sabir Shah’s case, means an act of political opportunism to obtain immoral gains and worldly advantages by exploiting one’s representative and political status. However, while enacting laws or introducing amendments to the Constitution with the object of eradicating the vice of defection, the legislature was not bound to provide the same meaning to the word ‘defection’ as given in dictionary or it is understood in common parlance”.

Meanwhile, PTI’s Senior Vice-President Chaudhry Fawad Hussain Friday congratulated the nation over ECP decision de-seating the 25 dissident MPAs. He said the verdict had closed a chapter of vicious politics in the country. He demanded the Sharif family desist from plunging the country into deeper morass and step down.

Reacting to the ECP verdict, the former minister said the federal and the Punjab provincial government had ceased to exist practically and now only a ‘constitutional conclusion’ was pending. He called on the Sharifs to tender resignations and let the country move towards fresh elections. “There should be no experiments of making Raja Riaz-like joker a leader of the opposition and demonstrate some sort of responsibility, and taking serious measures,” he added.

Fawad contended that the date for new elections should be announced and the electoral exercise should be conducted under an acceptable framework and a new Election Commission.

However, PMLN leader Ataullah Tarar Friday said in Lahore they respected the ECP decision “but we have the right to file an appeal”. Talking to the media, he said despite de-seating of dissident Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) members of the provincial assembly, Hamza Shehbaz would remain the chief minister of Punjab. He said many people were celebrating the ECP decision as if the Punjab government had gone. He said Hamza Shehbaz was the chief minister Punjab and he would remain the chief minister. “We are not going anywhere,” he claimed.

Tarar said whenever voting would be held in the Punjab Assembly, the PMLN candidate would get support of 177 MPAs. He claimed that the total strength of the PTI and the PMLQ in the Punjab Assembly was 168 at the moment.

Calling PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry and Sheikh Rashid Ahmad timeservers, Tarar claimed that Fawad Ch wanted to join the PMLN or the PPP now. He said Pervaiz Elahi’s dream of becoming the Punjab chief minister would never come true.

The PMLN leader said only a constitutionally-appointed governor could ask the chief minister for a vote of confidence. He said 186 number was needed for bringing a no-confidence motion against the Punjab CM.

Awais Leghari said that due to dishonesty and corruption of the PTI government, the dissident members had decided to revolt against the leadership. Unfortunately, the ECP de-seated those members without even listening to them, he added.