Punjab reserved seats’ MPAs’ notification after by-polls: ECP

PTI criticises ECP, vows to challenge its verdict in the Supreme Court

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) would notify the new MPAs on five reserved seats of the Punjab Assembly after the announcement of by-election results scheduled to be held on July 17.

A five-member ECP bench – headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja – announced the reserved verdict in light of Lahore High Court’s (LHC) directives to dispose of the matter by June 2. According to the verdict, the allocation of reserved seats – three women and two minorities – would be notified after the conclusion of the by-election for 20 vacant Punjab Assembly seats.

At the outset of the hearing, Advocate General Punjab Shehbaz Shaukat told ECP that Punjab Assembly electoral college would be complete after by-elections on 20 Punjab Assembly general seats that fell vacant after the PTI lawmakers were de-notified by ECP. Attorney General of Pakistan Ashraf Ausaf also appeared before the commission. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Faisal Chaudhry and PML-N’s lawyer completed their arguments.

Earlier, the ECP had de-notified a total of 25 dissident MPAs of PTI, including five MPAs of reserved seats who had voted for PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz against their party line during the election for the Punjab chief minister last month. The reserved seats included three women and two minority MPAs and were allocated to parties on the basis of the total number of general seats secured by each political party in the provincial assembly.

The PTI had filed a petition in the LHC on May 28 requesting it to direct the ECP to notify the five new MPAs and “summon [them] personally”. Subsequently, the high court had given the ECP a deadline of June 2 to decide on the matter. The electoral watchdog, in its decision on Thursday, said the notification would stay until by-elections are held. It also rejected the PTI and 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 on Thursday, PTI’s lawyer Faisal Chaudhry argued that the incumbent Punjab government 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.

Meanwhile, PML-N’s counsel 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 Election Commission to notify new MPAs in accordance with the current proportion in the 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’s seats have been reduced, after which they cannot have the same proportion. Nobody can tell which party will be successful in the by-elections.” Ausaf said it would be “more appropriate” if the ECP waited until the by-elections. Subsequently, the Election Commission reserved its decision.