LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday ordered re-counting of votes for the election of Punjab’s chief minister held on April 16, instructing that the votes of 25 dissident PTI lawmakers be excluded from the counting process.
A five-member bench comprising Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan, Justice Shahid Jamil Khan, Justice Shehram Sarwar Chaudhry, Justice Sajid Mahmood Sethi and Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh announced the verdict with a 4-1 majority.
The detailed order will be issued later in the day.
Hamza was elected as the Punjab CM on April 16 during a provincial assembly session that was marred by violence. He received a total of 197 votes — 11 more than the required 186 — including from 25 dissident PTI MPAs that were crucial for his victory. On May 20, those lawmakers were de-seated by the ECP for defecting.
Since then, a series of petitions have challenged Hamza’s election as the chief minister. All of them were, however, clubbed together after the court observed that they were identical.
In his petition, Elahi, who was also the PTI-PML-Q’s candidate for the CM Office, requested the court to declare that Hamza was not the chief minister since he had failed to secure the requisite number of votes in light of the SC’s interpretation stating the votes of defecting lawmakers would not be counted.
Therefore, the April 16 election, its results and the certificate issued by the Punjab Assembly deputy speaker to Hamza declaring his victory had “no legal effect”, the petition stated.
The petition requested the high court to declare “all consequential actions taken by [Hamza] in his purported capacity as the chief minister Punjab and all and any other communications made, orders passed and notifications issued etc., consequential upon the declaration of the afore-mentioned result and issuing the set certificate … to be null and void”.
Separately, PTI’s petition, which was filed by MPAs Mohammad Sibtain Khan, Zainab Umair, Mian Mohammad Aslam Iqbal, Syed Abbas Ali Shah and Ahsan Saleem Baryar, stated that the session held for conducting the election witnessed “immense chaos and most unfortunate events”.
Deputy Speaker Mazari took “unlawful” aid from the police and provincial officials for holding a “sham and fraudulent” election, following which he communicated that Hamza had won, the petition said.
It noted that votes of 25 dissident PTI MPAs were also counted in the final tally for Hamza. While the then governor Cheema had refused to accept the election results, Hamza was administered the oath due to “judicial overreach”, it contended.
“As per the investigation conducted by the [then] honourable governor of Punjab, the respondent secretary of the provincial assembly has tendered a report detailing the various dimensions of the election held on 16.04.2022 and has categorically informed the [then] honourable governor that the referred elections were/are unlawful; thus consequently the certificate issued by the respondent deputy speaker/acting speaker was/is without any lawful sanction/legal authority,” the petition reads.
According to the petition, Hamza’s election was in violation of the Constitution and the Rules of Business of the Punjab Assembly. It recalled that Hamza had approached the LHC for holding the election, adding that he treated it as an urgent matter because he had the support of 25 dissident PTI MPAs, which was a violation of Article 63 of the Constitution.
An analysis of the Supreme Court’s interpretation would lead to the conclusion that the chief minister’s election was unlawful, it stated.
“On this ground alone and keeping in view the scope and intent behind Article 63-A of the Constitution, the election held on 16.04.2022 [should] be declared as being without lawful authority and consequently be struck down.”