ECP de-notifies defecting Punjab lawmakers of PTI

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ISLAMABAD— The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) formally de-notified 25 lawmakers in the Punjab Assembly of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) 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.

The development 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.

The letter submitted Monday was authored by Faisal Chaudhry, counsel for the PTI, to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja.

In his letter, Chaudhry said Shahbaz has lost his majority after the de-seating of the defecting lawmakers and called on the commission to prevent him from acting as the chief minister.

He further asked the CEC to denotify the lawmakers in light of its decision on May 20.

On Sunday, the party filed a petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) for ensuring the immediate de-seating of Punjab Assembly lawmakers disqualified by the election agency and the oath-taking of new members.

The application was submitted to the chief justice by Azhar Siddique, a second counsel for PTI, who also shared details of the events that occurred at the Punjab Assembly.

He argued in his plea that dissident PTI lawmakers have no right to attend the Punjab Assembly’s proceedings after being disqualified and de-seated by the election commission. “The court should ensure oath of new members on reserved seats that fell vacant after PTI lawmakers got de-seated,” he said.

Siddique said that the chief justice asked them to submit the plea on Monday as per the procedure. “The plea will be taken up by the court tomorrow,” he had said.



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