ISLAMABAD: In a landmark decision, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has de-seated 25 Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaf (PTI)’s MPAs who voted for Hamza Shahbaz in the election of chief minister Punjab against the party policy in Punjab Assembly last month, declaring this act as “worst form of betraying the electorate and party’s policy.”
“There are two options before us; one is to ignore the completion of actusreus (casting of vote in favour of opposing candidate) on the grounds of non-fulfilment of pre-requisites as mentioned in Article 63-A and decline the declarations. The other is to hold that casting of vote in favour of opposing candidate against party’s policy being a serious matter as observed by the honourable Supreme Court…,” reads the 23-page verdict on the reference against the 25 dissident members provincial assembly (MPAs).
“Keeping in view the above, we are of the view that the casting of votes by the respondent in favour of opposing candidate is a serious issue and worst form of betraying the electorate and party’s policy. Therefore, we hold that the defection in the subject cases shall not depend upon strict proof of observance of pre-requisites as provided in Article 63-A. Questions are decided accordingly,” reads the ECP order, issued by three-member ECP bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and comprising Nisar Ahmed Durrani and Shah Muhammad Jatoi.
“In the light of our question-wise findings, we have arrived at the conclusion that participation of the respondents in the election of chief minister Punjab and casting their votes in favour of opposing candidate has established the factum of defection on the basis of the subject declarations against all the respondents. The declarations are confirmed and the respondents cease to be members of Punjab Assembly and their seats become vacant,” the verdict concludes.
The decision was reserved earlier on Tuesday. The ECP was scheduled to announce it on Wednesday but deferred it till Friday apparently after the issuance of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding 20 dissident members National Assembly (MNAs).
Barrister Ali Zafar and Advocate Faisal Chaudhry represented the former ruling party whereas dissidents’ counsels included Barrister Salman Akram Raja and Advocate Khalid Ishaq.
“The turncoats have been cut to size,” tweeted PTI Secretary General Asad Umar after the ECP decision.
Earlier on May 11, ECP dismissed cases against PTI’s 20 dissident MNAs, terming these cases “devoid of force,” which, the commission said, “cannot be entertained at this belated stage.”
The case against one PTI dissident MPA Javed Akhtar was dismissed on the grounds that he did not cast vote in the election of PM Punjab whereas the remaining 25 MPAs have been de-seated.
The dissident PTI MNAs took the stance that, unlike the dissident party MPAs who voted in the CM Punjab election last month against the party’s direction, they did not participate in voting on the no-confidence motion against the then Prime Minister Imran Khan last month nor did they join any other political party.
Article 63-A deals with the defection of those lawmakers who vote against their party’s direction in the election of PM/CM, vote of confidence/vote of no-confidence, and money bill.
The ECP, under Article 63-A, is bound to decide the defection case(s) within 30 days of the receipt of related case(s).
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022