The number game in Punjab Assembly will become more interesting if the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) allotted the five reserved seats to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in light of the directives of the Lahore High Court (LHC).
On Monday, the LHC directed the ECP to notify five members of PTI as MPAs on reserved seats. It all started when the ECP de-notified 25 MPAs of PTI who had violated the party policy by voting for the PML-N nominee for Punjab chief minister. Hamza became the chief minister getting 197 votes on April 16. As many as 25 MPAs of PTI voted in favour of him in violation of the party policy. A reference was moved by Speaker Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Parvez Elahi against 25 defectors in the ECP, and the commission de-notified them while also announcing by-elections on the reserved seats.
Among these 25 MPAs, five were elected on reserved seats (three women and two minorities). Later, a PTI MPA moved a petition in the Lahore High Court seeking these five reserved seats back. The ECP submitted a reply in the LHC that these reserved seats cannot be announced until the by-election is held on the remaining 20 general seats. The ECP thinks that the proportion of the House is disturbed after the de-seating of a large number of MPAs and therefore the results of by-elections should be awaited to fill the reserved vacant seats. The situation has now got interesting with the LHC directing the ECP to fill these five reserved seats.
In the current Punjab Assembly, the ruling PML-N has 165 MPAs while it’s one MPA, Faisal Niazi has submitted his resignation to Speaker Elahi which is yet to be accepted. Moreover, the PML-N has the support of seven PPP MPAs and one of the Rah-e-Haq party, Muawia Azam. The party also enjoys the support of four independent MPAs. So, PML-N has the support of 176 lawmakers in total. The PTI has 158 MPAs, including Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari. If 10 MPAs of PML-Q and five on reserved seats are added to the tally of PTI, then its total tally reaches 173.
In this scenario, no one has the simple majority in the House as 186 MPAs are required for that. All eyes are now on the by-elections that are to be held on 17th July on 20 seats. The PML-N needs to win 10 seats to reach the magic number while the PTI-PML-Q are required to grab 13 seats. The sources within the PML-N claim that the party will move a petition in the LHC today, demanding three reserved seats as the proportion of the House is now disturbed and the party thinks that all these five seats no more belong to the PTI and therefore the results of by-elections should be waited for.
Talking to party workers at the Lahore office, PTI Central Punjab President Dr. Yasmin Rashid termed the LHC’s decision a major victory for her party. “We are grateful to LHC for this decision as the illegal government of Hamza Shehbaz is no more in Punjab after the decision,” she said, adding that “we’ll clinch maximum seats in the by-elections and will form our government in Punjab again”.