Floor crossing reference decided

Punjab government may well fall

The Supreme Court has decided the presidential reference on the Anti-Defection Clause definitively, holding that the votes of those voting against the party leader’s instructions must have their votes discounted. This implies that the PTI MNAs who did not vote for Mian Shehbaz Sharif as PM are not to be unseated, but those PTI MPAs who did vote for Hamza Shehbaz Sharif as Punjab CM will not only be unseated, but will also have their votes not counted. Without them, he cannot show a majority of members. The Supreme Court decision may be reversed only by the Supreme Court itself, presumably in some future case. It is probable that the Court (by then composed of other judges) may recognize that its abhorrence of defection, which is indeed a heinous act, may have led it to the imposition of the dictatorship of the party leader. And not just members of the majority party, but of the smaller parties as well. It is not yet clear what the decision will mean for the PML(Q) or the BAP, both of which split, with a member staying on the government’s side.

The Supreme Court has also been forthright in saying that the votes must not be counted irrespective of whether the party head takes action leading to unseating. That means that the votes are not to be counted, even if the party leader does not take action leading to their deseating. It is perhaps not surprising that the Election Commission of Pakistan has withheld the decision it was due to have announced on Wednesday, on the Punjab dissidents, because while they may escape deseating because of procedural lacunae, their votes cannot be counted.

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It is unfortunate but true that the decision merely worsens the complicated mess in the Punjab. Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz faces a Governor who refuses to recognize him, but if he cannot prove a majority, neither can his rival, who would have to risk being supported by members who had voted against him. It is no help thst ther PTI supported Ch Pervez Elahi for the post, but the Governor has since said that the previous incumbent, Usman Buzdar, didn’t resign after all. The reference decision may merely have precipitated a fresh round of court battles.

Editorial
The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]

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