LAHORE: In a major development, the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday accepted the plea of the PTI and directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to notify the members on Punjab Assembly's reserved seats.
The PTI had approached the LHC against the ECP decision deferring the issuance of notification of reserved assembly seats till the by-elections on 20 vacant seats.
On June 2, the ECP had ruled that the allocation of reserved seats — three women and two minorities — would be notified after the conclusion of the by-polls scheduled on July 17.
The seats — for which the by-elections will take place — fell vacant after the ECP had de-notified 25 PTI dissident MPAs — 20 general candidates, three women, and two minority members — who had voted for PML-N’s Hamza Shahbaz against their party's line during the Punjab chief minister’s election last month.
“ECP is bound to issue notification under Section 6 of Article 224 of the Constitution,” read the petition. The petitioner had pleaded with the court to suspend the ECP’s verdict and order to notify new MPAs on the five reserved seats, recommended by the PTI.
After the LHC order, the five reserved seats will be allocated to the PTI which will increase their number in the provincial legislature.
At the outset of today’s hearing, Barrister Ali Zafar pleaded with the LHC that the ECP was not notifying MPs on the reserved seats in the Punjab Assembly. The ECP is bound to give reserved seats to the political parties in proportion to the general seats in the assembly.
The political parties are given reserved seats proportionally on their numerical strength or on the basis of general seats in the legislature, argued Ali Zafar.
He maintained that the ECP is not authorised to change the list provided by the political parties for the reserved seats. The PTI’s lawyer said that they have provided a list to the ECP and requested the election body to issue a notification as per the party’s recommendation.
The ECP turned down their plea saying that 20 seats are lying vacant in the assembly, hence the total number of the parties has changed.
“The ECP’s stance is against the law,” argued the PTI’s lawyer.
At this, the advocate general said that the notification on the reserved seats is issued after the general elections. After the de-seating of 20 PTI defiant lawmakers, the position of the political parties has changed in the assembly, he added.
After the conclusion of the hearing, the LHC announced the order, admitting the PTI’s plea.
The Punjab assembly has a total of 371 members, of which, at the moment, 20 seats are vacant and are up for re-polling on July 17.
This brings down the total numbers of MPAs in the Punjab assembly down to 351.
The ruling PML-N has the majority of 165 members. However, four of its MPAs had previously rebelled against the party leadership, of which two are still undecided about staying with the PML-N. This leaves the PML-N with only 163 MPAs.
On the other side is the opposition, therefore the PTI, which is 158 MPAs strong at the moment. But if allotted the five reserved seats after the orders of the Lahore High Court, the PTI will also bring up its numbers to 163.
In the House, are also five independents, of which Chaudhry Nisar, the former interior minister, is unlikely to vote. While the PPP has 7 MPAs, PML-Q has 10 and Rah-e-Haq party has one.
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