In a major blow to the coalition government, the Lahore High Court on Wednesday suspended the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) order de-notifying 43 Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers.
Last month, the ECP denotified the last batch of 43 lawmakers who resigned en masse after their resignations were accepted by National Assembly (NA) Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf despite their request for withdrawal of the resignations.
The high court also stayed the by-elections on the 43 constituencies of the de-notified MNAs till further notice. It also issued a notice to the Election Commission and other parties, seeking their replies.
The order was passed by Justice Shahid Karim during the hearing of a plea filed by Riaz Fatyana and other lawmakers against the approval of their resignations by the National Assembly speaker.
The 43 de-notified MNAs last week filed a plea in the LHC to set aside the NA speaker's approval of resignations and ECP's notification declaring the seats vacant.
During the hearing, Barrister Ali Zafar said that legal requirements were not fulfilled while accepting the resignations.
Justice Karim inquired about which legal requirements were unmet.
At this, Barrister Zafar said that the speaker did not inquire in line with the Constitution before accepting the resignations. "The MNAs did not appear before the speaker for the acceptance of their resignations," he added.
He said that the speaker cannot approve the resignations without hearing the lawmakers.
The PTI lawmakers had tendered their resignations en masse after the Imran Khan-led government was ousted via a no-confidence motion in April of last year.
The PTI had claimed resignations were accepted by former deputy speaker Qasim Suri in absence of a speaker after Asad Qaiser's resignation.
The NA speaker, after his election, approved the resignations of 11 PTI lawmakers in July 2022. He had stalled the process stating the remaining lawmakers would be summoned individually for verification.
However, contrary to his stance, he quickened the process once PTI in January announced its return to the assembly and "test" the PM through a confidence vote.
The PTI resignations were accepted by NA Speaker Ashraf in four stages: 11 in the first phase, 35, 34, and 43 in the second, third, and fourth phases, respectively.
ECP has so far announced by-elections on 33, and 31 constituencies on March 16 and March 19, respectively. However, the by-polls on the 43 constituencies were yet to be announced.