LAHORE: In a major setback to the PML-N's government in Punjab, the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday accepted the appeals of the PTI filed against the election of Hamza Shahbaz as chief minister, and ordered a recount of votes with the exclusion of the 25 defecting party members who voted for him.
A larger bench of the LHC— headed by Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan — and comprising Justice Shahid Jamil, Justice Shehram Sarwar, Justice Sajid Mehmood Sethi and Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh issued the 4-1 verdict today.
Justice Sajid Mehmood Sethi dissented with his fellow judges.
Commenting on the verdict, Geo News anchor and legal analyst Muneeb Farooq said that under Article 130(4) of the Constitution, if the candidate fails to get a majority vote in the provincial assembly then a second round of vote is held.
The LHC has directed that a Punjab Assembly session be called on July 1 at 4pm for the second round of vote. He said that voting will be held after excluding the 25 PTI defiant lawmakers.
Whichever candidate will win the majority vote on July 1 will be the chief minister, Farooq, quoting the court’s verdict said. The court has, however, given protection to the decisions made by the Hamza Shahbaz as chief minister, he added.
He said that the Punjab Assembly deputy speaker will preside over the session on July 1 as Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi is a contestant for the post.
Explaining the verdict, Farooq said there is no condition of securing 186 votes in the second round of vote, adding that whoever will receive the majority will be the chief minister.
Talking to media, PML-N leader Attaullah Tarar said that the party respects all the verdicts issued by the courts.
“The court neither nullified the previous elections nor ordered fresh elections,” Tarar said, adding that the court has directed the previous voting process be carried out after the exclusion of 25 votes. He maintained that CM Hamza Shahbaz will remain in office till the run off elections.
Talking about the party's numbers in the house, he said that PML-N has the support of 177 MPs in the house, while the PML-Q and PTI have 168 votes.
“We have the majority with nine votes in the house,” he said, adding that they are confident that PML-N will win tomorrow.
Talking to Geo News, PTI leader Mehmood-ur-Rasheed said that the LHC has approved all the three petitions filed by his party.
“Hamza is no more chief minister now,“ he said, adding that a new election would be held for the slot of CM Punjab.
He congratulated the people of Punjab on their success in court. Criticising the PML-N, he said that Hamza Shahbaz, despite having no majority in the house, was enjoying the powers of CM for over two months.
He vowed that the upcoming election for the Punjab CM slot will be won by the PTI.
Responding to a question, the PTI leader said that the verdict, in this case, will definitely have an impact on the by-polls
The PTI and PML-Q had challenged the election of Hamza Shahbaz which took place on April 16 in a chaotic session.
Now, the same candidates, Hamza Shahbaz and Pervez Elahi, will run for the position again.
The deputy speaker will oversee the CM election proceedings. If a no-confidence motion is filed against him, the proceedings will be presided over by a panel of chairmen.
In light of the Supreme Court's decision, the Election Commission of Pakistan has deposed the 25 PTI defectors. By-elections for the 20 vacant seats will be held on July 17, and the campaign is well underway.
The provincial Election Commission has yet to notify two minority and three female members on the PTI's priority list of reserved seats.
The opposition alliance will gain five more seats following the implementation of the apex court's order for notification of members on reserved seats. At the time of the election for the CM's seat, 351 members will vote, with the remaining 20 members joining the assembly after the by-elections.
At present, the government alliance enjoys the support of 177 MPAs, including 160 of the PML-N (160), four independents, one Rah-e-Haq Party and seven of the PPP. On the other hand, the PTI has 158 MPAs in the Punjab Assembly after 25 of its MPAs were de-seated.
However, the party’s strength will reach 163 when the reserved members are notified. In addition, it also enjoys the support of 10 PML-Q MPAs. In total, the opposition alliance enjoys the support of 173 parliamentarians. In this situation, Chaudhry Nisar’s vote will be quite crucial, as there is a difference of only four votes between the ruling and opposition alliance.
In case the slot goes to Hamza Shehbaz, as he enjoys a razor-thin lead of four votes, the ruling alliance needs to win nine seats in the by-elections to successfully get the vote of confidence. Hence, the results of the by-elections will decide the future of both alliances.
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