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January 13, 2018

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For voting against party policy...: Balochistan MPAs may face disqualification

ISLAMABAD: Any member of the Balochistan Assembly voting in the election of the new chief minister in violation of the direction of his party would be hit by the defection clause of the Constitution, a legal expert says.

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“There is no ambiguity in Article 63A that any member of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) or any other parliamentary party, going against the party direction, would be affected by this provision,” former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Ali Zafar told The News.

He said the direction of the parliamentary head in the provincial assembly would have to be accepted by all the PML-N lawmakers, including the “rebels” otherwise they would attract the floor-crossing clause.

To a question that when 15 out of 21 PML-N legislators “revolted” and became the majority group within their parliamentary party, he said the number doesn’t matter and the direction of its head in the provincial assembly (former chief minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri in this case) will prevail as required under Article 63A. In no way, the numerical strength of this faction whittles down the power of the party head, Ali Zafar said.

He said the constitutional provision spells out four occasions when an MP would be hit by the defection clause if he votes or abstains from voting against the direction of the party head. Ali Zafar said that one is the election of the chief minister that will take place in the Balochistan Assembly on Saturday. The group of 15 PML-N legislators is the main support of PML-Q’s Abdus Qaddus Bizenjo, who is vying for the office of the chief minister.

The second condition when the lawmaker will earn ouster if he doesn’t follow the direction of the party head, is during the vote of confidence or a vote of no-trust against the chief minister. The Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) has fielded Abdul Rahim Khan Ziaratwal, elected from Harnai/Sibi, and Agha Syed Liaqat Ali, elected from Pishin, against Bizenjo.

The Article 63A says if a member of a parliamentary party in any legislature resigns from the membership of his political party or joins another parliamentary party; or votes or abstains from voting contrary to any direction issued by the parliamentary party to which he belongs in relation to election of chief minister (or prime minister); or a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or a money bill or a Constitution (Amendment) Bill; he may be declared in writing by the party head to have defected from the political party, and the party head may forward a copy of the declaration to the presiding officer and the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and shall similarly forward a copy thereof to the defecting member.

Before making the declaration, the party head shall provide such member with an opportunity to show cause as to why such declaration may not be made against him.

Upon receipt of the declaration issued by the party head, the presiding officer shall within two days refer, and in case he fails to do so it, shall be deemed that he has referred, the declaration to the CEC who shall lay the declaration before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for its decision thereon confirming the declaration or otherwise within 30 days.

When the ECP confirms the declaration, the concerned member shall cease to be a legislator and his seat shall become vacant. Any party aggrieved by the ECP decision may, within 30 days, refer an appeal to the Supreme Court which shall decide the matter within 90 days from the date of the filing of the appeal.

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