The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) postponed announcing on Wednesday its verdict on a disqualification reference filed against 25 dissident lawmakers of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the Punjab Assembly.
Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi had sent the disqualification reference against the dissident members to the ECP after they voted for the rival nominee, Hamza Shahbaz, in the election for the chief minister of Punjab.
The election watchdog had reserved the verdict in the case a day earlier after the arguments were completed by both sides. The ECP was reported to announce the decision today before it was de-listed from the commission’s cause list.
The counsel for the dissident members of the provincial assembly argued that the MPAs were unaware of the directions given by the parliamentary party about voting for Pervaiz Elahi for the slot of Punjab chief minister.
However, the PTI counsel contested this claim. He argued that the meeting of the parliamentary party was held on April 1, its decision was reported in the press the next day, that notices to all MPAs of the Punjab Assembly were issued on April 2 by the chief whip, and another notice was sent on April 4 by PTI General Secretary Asad Umar, that another meeting was held in April in which the same decision was taken, and that a notice was sent on April 7 for the third time.
The ECP’s decision is crucial in light of the Supreme Court’s yesterday’s ruling in the Article 63-A presidential reference. The SC ruled that the votes of the defecting lawmakers would not be counted under Article 63-A. The judgment apparently dealt a fatal blow to the PML-N’s calculations in the country’s political heartland – Punjab – with the fate of the newly elected chief minister, Hamza Shahbaz, hanging in the balance, throwing the matter into a new period of uncertainty and seeding further confusion about the outcome.
Last week, the commission had rejected the references filed against the party’s MNAs, who had decided to side with the opposition before its no-confidence motion against ex-PM Imran.
However, the PTI chairman was ousted without their votes.