ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Wednesday rejected the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s reference seeking disqualification of its 20 dissident MNAs, as they did not vote on the no-confidence resolution against then prime minister Imran Khan.
In yet another unanimous judgment, the three-member ECP bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, held that Article 63-A of the Constitution dealing with disqualification on the grounds of defection was not applicable in the case of 20 dissident MNAs.
Earlier in the day, the bench had reserved judgment on the reference against the dissident PTI MNAs, after hearing arguments from the two sides. The ECP also dismissed the PTI’s application for submitting more evidence and recording the statements of PTI leaders, including Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Asad Umar, submitted by counsel for PTI chairman's advocate Faisal Fareed, who argued that the declaration had been made on the basis of information and material available with the party head.
He also contended that video clips, transcripts and statements of its witnesses, material were substantial piece of evidence that would help the ECP reach a correct conclusion, adding the commission had vast powers under the Constitution and law to summon any record or to call any witness for fair and just conclusion.
On his part, the counsel for respondents argued that provision of Article 63-A of the Constitution entails penal consequence and, therefore, shall be strictly construed. He submitted that the party head after making a declaration was required to forward a copy of the declaration to the presiding officer and the Chief Election Commissioner along with relevant documents and evidence. He argued that production of documents at this stage was just an afterthought, claiming the evidence was also fabricated and concocted.
In its judgment, the ECP held, “...we are of the considered view that the applications of the petitioner/counsel for the party head are devoid of force and cannot be entertained at this belated stage and are hereby dismissed”.
The counsel for Noor Alam Khan, a dissident PTI member, argued that in response to the PTI show-cause notice, Noor Alam Khan made it clear that neither had he left the PTI nor the parliamentary party and that Noor Alam Khan attended the meeting on April 3 as per the party's directives to ensure attendance. After this, the party didn't issue any other directive restricting him from attending its meetings. Moreover, the counsel argued that his client did not join any other political party but only the media gave an impression that Noor Alam Khan had violated the party policy.
The PTI leadership reacted strongly to the ECP judgment and termed it a certificate of declaring sale of loyalties and horse-trading halal (legitimate). “The ECP formally issued a decree to bury Article 63A of the Constitution and this transgression will fan internal anarchy,” commented PTI’s former minister and president of the party’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter.
PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the ECP decision was disappointing and would cause an irreparable harm to the rule of law, saying the decision has triggered outrage among the masses. “PTI has the intention to opt for a strong legal action on this development. This institutional protection to turncoats will lead to a future national crisis,” he maintained.
PTI Senior Vice President Fawad Hussain Chaudhry termed the ECP's decision ‘foolish but expected as it was already apparent what conclusion the electoral body would reach’. He added the PTI would fight such ‘lawlessness and prevail with the people's support. “This ECP decision will be challenged in the Supreme Court,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fawad Hussain Chaudhry announced they are initiating a legal battle against the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), and will file references against Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja and Sindh ECP member. He told journalists outside the Election Commission Secretariat here that first they would file a reference against Sindh ECP member Nisar Durrani and then the CEC will also face this move in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). He said that institutions have a responsibility to maintain balance in the country and when appointments are not made on merit, they fail to do so. He held the ECP responsible for the ongoing political crisis in the country, largely because the commission has become inactive as an institution.
Fawad contended that the country’s largest party has zero trust in the ECP, whereas PTI Chairman Imran Khan has already said that the CEC should take some post in the PMLN and the honourable way for him was to step down but unfortunately the opposite happened. He pointed out that Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are not represented in the ECP, which means that 70 percent of the population of Pakistan is not represented in the institution. He added in this situation ‘we have the option to continue our political struggle on the one hand and to start a legal struggle on the other hand. Today, we are going to start a legal struggle against this ECP’.
The PTI leader said Faisal Vawda, who is a victim of the ECP, is going to file a reference against the Sindh ECP member in the SJC. Referring to the right to vote to the overseas Pakistanis, he alleged that the incumbent government tried to snatch this right from the overseas Pakistanis and added his party strongly rejects the government on this count.
He charged that Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah was trying to run the government on threats and FIA was being sent to residences of anchors, journalists and political opponents at night.
Fawad said if the announcement on elections is not made before May 20, the situation can become worse in Pakistan than Sri Lanka. He said that people are in extreme anger over the way the Constitution and the law are not being followed and asked the government to abide by the law and the Constitution. Had the fate of turncoats, he stressed, been decided in the Supreme Court and the Election Commission, the crisis would have lessened but instead Pakistan is further plunging into a deeper crisis owing to the ECP’s irresponsible conduct.
Speaking on the occasion, Faisal Vawda of PTI alleged that the ECP is a political wing of PMLN and the electoral body has resorted to their character assassination through its judgments. “The real story of these black sheep, who got their prices fixed in the market, is starting from today and a reference is being filed against Sindh ECP member,” he noted. He claimed the member from Sindh despite having one official post, with the support of political parties, has become the principal of Sindh Law College and did not declare it while a case in this context is being heard at the Sindh High Court. Vawda said they have evidence and Article 216 bars anyone from holding such a post. He said he wanted to say to the ECP member from Balochistan to stop listening to music, as the next press conference would be against him and their head i.e. chief election commissioner who takes orders on phone. “Against him, we are preparing a reference,” he asserted.
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