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EditorialAnother twist in Punjab politics

Another twist in Punjab politics

Political turmoil sees no end in Pakistan, especially in Punjab, after the ouster of the Imran Khan government back in April as now the Lahore High Court (LHC) has declared the election of Hamza Shehbaz as chief minister null and void and ordered a recount of votes for the election of the chief minister office held on April 16. The order comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s order in the case of the explanation of the Article 63-A of the Constitution, which deals with floor crossing. The LHC order says the votes of 25 dissident PTI MPAs are not counted, which means the Hamza government has lost majority in the house. The five-member bench, consisting of justices Ali Khan, Shahid Jamil Khan, Shehram Sarwar Chaudhry, Sajid Mahmood Sethi and Tariq Saleem Sheikh, announced the 4-1 verdict, which has a dissenting note from Justice Sethi. The majority verdict notes that all votes in the April 16 election be recounted after excluding 25 votes of the PTI MPAs. As those 25 lawmakers have been deseated, and of them, 20 are contesting by-elections on the PML-N ticket, Hamza may not secure the required number of  186 votes in the 371-member house, which will lead to the run-off election under Article 130(4). As Hamza ceases to be chief minister, the court order has, however, given undue protection to the actions Hamza has taken since the day he took oath as the chief minister, and also bound the assembly to complete the process of election within a day.

Justice Sethi’s note holds that if the election of Hamza merits a recount, it means he was not a legal chief minister because of the exclusion of the dissident MPAs votes. The situation should have gone to the pre-April 16 time when Usman Buzdar was the chief minister. Instead, the court order explains that for the recounting of votes and re-election, if required, a PA session will be held on July 1 and complete the election of chief minister and the next day, the governor will administer the oath without any hesitation. The PTI may challenge the verdict that as the votes of the dissenting MPAs in favour of Hamza are admitted, therefore, the repeat of the exercise of counting/recounting is meaningless. Now in the interim period, Hamza holds the office of the chief minister which will give him political and administrative advantage to his rival.

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