ECP ordered to explain why it put off notification of reserved PA seats

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) served notice on the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), asking it to explain its verdict on notifying new lawmakers on five reserved seats of the Punjab Assembly after they fell vacant following the de-seating of 25 defecting MPs of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

On May 23, the commission de-notified 25 lawmakers — including five elected on seats reserved for women and minorities — who had defected and voted for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice president Hamza Shehbaz in the election for the office of Punjab chief minister on April 16.

However, in its verdict on the fate of reserved seats released June 2, the electoral watchdog stayed the notification until the by-polls on the 20 general seats scheduled for July 17, saying the general seats of the assembly had been reduced.

Subsequently, on June 14, the party filed an appeal in the IHC against the verdict. In the petition, party’s secretary-general Asad Umar said the ruling is against the law.

Justice Aamer Farooq took up the petition Wednesday and issued notice to the commission to submit a reply on the matter. The court also directed the counsel for PTI to also nominate PML-N as a respondent in the case and adjourned the hearing until Tuesday.

DE-SEATING OF DEFECTORS

The de-notification of the MPs came shortly after PTI approached the top electoral body to issue a notification of the latter’s decision to de-seat dissident legislators on charges of crossing the floor under Article 63-A of the Constitution.

Article 63-A provides that MPs who defect could lose their seats if they then vote against their party, but the government aims to find out whether that also applies before they cast their votes.

It reads that an MP can be disqualified on grounds of defection if they “vote or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the parliamentary party to which he belongs, in relation to the election of the prime minister or chief minister; or a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or a money bill (budget) or a Constitution (amendment) bill”.

With these 25 lawmakers no longer members of the assembly, Shehbaz, who won for the chief minister with the help of the dissident legislators, has lost his majority in the Punjab Assembly, raising questions about the status of his government.

Shehbaz got 197 votes in the chief minister’s election but is now left with the support of 172 members in the house. A candidate requires the support of at least 186 lawmakers in the 371-member House to be elected as the chief minister.

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