Thursday December 02, 2021

It’s not over till it’s over

By Mayed Ali
December 11, 2020

LAHORE: The Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) is sifting through multiple options to rein in its legislators for maximum political dividends once its campaign gets engaged in overdrive.

The en masse resignations from all legislatures simultaneously will open afterburners, giving the Movement the absolute thrust for shooting the present government down. The success in amassing huge number of legislators in the final stage of the campaign is pivotal for lubricating the post-resignation momentum till all desired objectives are achieved.

There are a few chicanes the PDM must focus on before the final assault --- the most important being herding their respective representatives together for ensuring a massive dent to the present regime. The emptied legislatures are imperative for eroding the political and legal credibility of the Imran government. However, the PDM just has a dose of morality to keep the elected members glued to its agenda all along for there is no Constitutional prescription the Movement’s leadership has to ensure the loyalties of representatives if and when required.

In such an eventuality, the PDM’s sole warhead, the resignation threat, is a mere projectile without any detonator, when juxtaposed against the Article 63-A of the Constitution, pertaining to the Defection Law. The said law doesn’t give any lever to the party leadership for making the legislators budge once the dice will have to be rolled.

The Article 63-A of the Constitution empowers the party-head in the following cases of defection. That is, if a party legislator resigns from the membership of his or her political party or joins another parliamentary party. He or she votes or abstains from the voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the parliamentary party to which he belongs, in relation to the election of the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister. Or, the member goes against the parliamentary party line during the votes of confidence and no-confidence or the Money Bill or a Constitutional Amendment Bill.

This implies any opposition legislator has no legal ramifications, whatsoever, if he or she decides not to relinquish the seat. Ironically, the party head will have no legal ground under the defection law to move against the party’s legislator, who refuses resignation issue.

Even if the Defection Law had empowered the party head in the case being discussed, the ensuing cumbersome process would have exhausted the initiative midway. The party head issuing show cause to the member concerned, the job of the presiding officer to send it to the Election Commission (EC) for further perusal, which could take quite some time, besides, the members' right to appeal within 30 days against the verdict of the EC are a few hitches the fast-paced PDM might not have afforded at this juncture. In case the PDM legislators refuse to vacate their seats, the Movement might lose the much-needed vitality. This could prove to be a spanner in the works for the PDM. That is, perhaps, the reason Maryam Nawaz is urging the PML-N supporters to lay a siege to the turncoats if such a time arrives.

However, if the PDM succeeded in getting a major chunk of their representatives on its side, it will surely take away credence from the existing August Houses. In such a scenario, the government will land in deep trouble with regard to issues, pertaining to the foreign affairs, including the upcoming decision on the country’s fate decided during the next Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Furthermore, a one-party government, which had already lost electoral credibility under the shadow of existing allegations by the opposition, it’ll be impossible for the Imran government to attract the foreign and domestic investment. Same will be the case with the other sectors amounting to a complete financial catastrophe amidst already hay wired money matters.

Meanwhile, the opposition will keep the streets of the country warm, engaging the government on multiple fronts so it could lose whatever energy it had. This is one of the benefits the opposition would get out of the planned resignation campaign. The PDM will engage the movement in overdrive by switching to mass civil disobedience.

They have tasted blood in Multan in the wake of the encounter with the government. The success at Multan has raised the moral of the opposition, while deflated the confidence of the government. It’s all about the political success of the PDM’s agenda outside the Parliament. It hasn’t got anything to do with its constitutional success inside the legislatures.

Interestingly, there is a perception amidst the Treasury it would either erode the PDM representation in the legislatures or delay the post-resignation process. The probability of erosion exists. However, the Presiding Officer can’t sit on the resignations for over two days if the member tenders the resignation in a handwritten form. The resignation letter must be duly signed and the member will have to submit it in person. In case there is any complication at this juncture, the resignation would be considered submitted to the Election Commission (EC) after two days.

On the other hand, the PTI-led government, especially its allies, will have a political and legal field day, announcing fresh elections on the vacant seats, if any. It will also be in a better position to table fresh laws, especially the much sought 18th Amendment.

If and when the Imran government decides to touch the Constitutional Amendments, including the 18th, the lot of the opposition astray in the National Assembly and Senate, if any and if required, will have to resign and get re-elected for exercising its vote. They could vote first and face the wrath of their political parents or resign, get re-elected and then vote.