Islamabad: Pakistan’s top election body on Friday ”de-seated” 25 dissident members of ousted prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for voting against the party’s direction in the election of the chief minister of Punjab last month. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced its verdict in a case on the disqualification of 25 dissident provincial lawmakers for voting in favour of Hamza Shehbaz, the chief ministerial candidate of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), last month. The ECP in its unanimous decision ruled that the PTI lawmakers “defected” under Article 63-A of the Constitution, and thus have to be ”de-seated”. De-seated means that the lawmakers have lost their seat but are not disqualified. These PTI dissidents can participate in the by-polls for these seats.
The ECP had reserved its verdict in the case on May 17, stating that it would be announced the next day but later the announcement was postponed. Those de-seated can file an appeal in the Supreme Court within a month. The apex court has 90 days to decide the matter. Article 63-A restricts lawmakers from voting (or abstaining) in violation of party instructions ”in relation to election of the prime minister or chief minister; or a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or a money bill or a Constitution (amendment) bill”. The verdict is significant in light of the Supreme Court’s decision about Article 63-A, related to the disqualification of lawmakers over defection, which was announced earlier this week. The top court had ruled that the vote of dissident lawmakers cannot be counted, leaving a question mark on the future of Hamza Shehbaz, son of Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. He had received a total of 197 votes while 186 votes were required for a simple majority. The votes of the 25 PTI dissidents had been instrumental in helping Hamza to get a majority in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province. The ECP verdict would further deepen the political crisis in Pakistan, political observers said, adding it will empower ousted premier Khan to press for early elections.