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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday turned down Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s demand to issue notifications of five new members provincial assembly (MPAs) on seats reserved for women and minorities after they fell vacant when 25 MPAs were de-seated over floor crossing.

A five-member bench announced the verdict, which it reserved earlier in the day, in line with the Lahore High Court (LHC)’s directives which had directed to decide the matter by June 2.

The top electoral body, in its decision, said the notification would be stayed until by-elections are held. It also rejected the PTI and the PML-N’s petitions. Responding to the development, PTI Vice President Fawad Chaudhry criticised the ECP and said the party would challenge its verdict in the Supreme Court.

During the hearing at the ECP, the counsel for PTI Faisal Chaudhry argued that the incumbent government in Punjab does not have the majority and, therefore, does not deserve to rule.

He said the ECP should immediately issue notifications for new MPAs on the reserved seats and contended that as per the Constitution, the new MPAs would be from the same party the previous ones were de-seated from.

The counsel for PML-N Khalid Ishaq contended that the case was that of a first impression and the principle of proportional representation could not be ignored. He requested the ECP to notify new MPAs in accordance with the current proportion in Punjab Assembly.

For his part, Attorney General of Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf argued that the principle of proportional representation could not be applied until the assembly was complete.

“Twenty of PTI seats have been reduced, after which they cannot have the same proportion. Nobody can tell which party will be successful in by-elections,” he added.

Ausaf said it would be more appropriate if the ECP could wait till the by-elections.

Subsequently, the ECP reserved its decision.

Twenty-five PTI dissident lawmakers, who include five elected on seats reserved for women and minorities, were de-seated for voting for PML-N’s Hamza Shahbaz in the Punjab chief minister’s election.

They were officially de-notified by the ECP on May 23. The PTI had filed a petition in LHC on May 28 requesting it to direct the ECP to notify the five new MPAs and summon them personally. Subsequently, the LHC had given the ECP a deadline for June 2 to decide on the matter.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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