THE Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has lived up to its reputation of deciding election related cases purely on merit by de-seating 25 dissident MPAs of the PTI who voted for PML-N’s Hamza Shehbaz in the election for Punjab chief minister, stating that they had defected from the party.
Technically, the procedural requirements of effective defection were not completed but the three-member bench of the ECP, comprising Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, Nisar Ahmed Durrani and Shah Mohammad Jatoi held that the casting of votes by the respondent[s] in favour of opposing candidate is a serious issue and worst form of betrayal of the electorate and party’s policy.
Therefore, the defection in the subject cases shall not depend upon strict proof of observance of prerequisites as provided in Article 63-A.
Like other cases and judgements, this also has positive and negative consequences for the opposing sides but in the ultimate analysis the decision would go a long way in purging the system from electoral malpractices.
The ECP deserves credit for its principled and legal based position on all cases despite frontal attacks by a political party, which had been accusing it of serving as a wing of another political party.
Similar remarks were made when a few days back the Commission held that no defection took place in the case of members of the National Assembly as they did not vote against the party directions.
The latest decision has once again proved that the Commission is working independently and all political parties should extend it their fullest possible cooperation in discharging its functions and responsibility in a transparent manner.
The verdict on the reference has surely added to the woes of incumbent Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz, who has already been issued notices by the Lahore High Court (LHC) on separate petitions filed by the PTI and PML-Q’s Chaudhry Parvez Elahi requesting the court to declare his election as Punjab chief minister “illegal” and to restrain him from working in that capacity.
According to legal and constitutional experts, a second round of voting for election of the leader of the house would be held and the candidate securing more votes would be declared as the winner.
Hamza has an edge in the numbers game and now that votes of defectors would not be counted, it would be difficult for either side to lure MPAs from the other side.
The by-elections on the vacant seats might help stabilize the situation in the province but no one knows for sure what is in store for the political forces in the given uncertain environment.