Significant development in Punjab politics, re-counting of votes for CM today

LAHORE: In a significant development and 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.

PML-N will win elections; says Tarar

Talking to media, PML-N leader Attaullah Tarar said that they respect 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 to continue the previous voting process by excluding 25 votes. He maintained that PM Hamza Shahbaz will remain in office till the run off elections.

Talking about the party’s numbers in the lower 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.

Hamza no more Punjab CM; says Mahmood

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.

Same candidates in fray

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.

Hamza Sharif

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.

Pervaiz Elahi

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.

Lahore High Court’s decision

In a significant development, the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday ordered a recount of the votes cast in the Punjab chief minister’s election, excluding the votes of 25 PTI dissidents, while declaring the outcome of the party’s petitions contesting Hamza Shahbaz’s election to the post.

Punjab Assembly

In a brief order published following the hearing, the LHC directed that ballots in the April 16 election be recounted after excluding 25 votes of the dissident lawmakers. If Hamza fails to win the required majority of 186 votes in the 371-member house, the election will be held again under Article 130(4), unless another candidate receives a majority of votes.

According to Article 130(4), in the second round of voting, a member does not need 186 votes to be chosen chief minister, but only a majority of those “present and voting.”

PTI filed 5 separate pleas

PTI had filed five separate pleas challenging the conduct of the Punjab Assembly on April 16, alongside Hamza’s election.

A Punjab Assembly session will be convened on July 1 (tomorrow) at 4 pm for the recounting of votes and re-election, if necessary. The LHC emphasized that the session could not be adjourned until the election process was finished and the presiding officer “indicated the elected chief minister’s result to the governor.”

Dissenting note

In his dissenting note, Justice Sajid Mahmood Sethi said that the votes of the 25 PTI dissidents cast in favour of Hamza were “admitted”, therefore, there was no need to repeat the exercise of counting/recounting.

The judge noted that in the 371-strong PA, the requisite number needed to become chief minister was 186 votes. He went on to say that from the record, Hamza obtained 197 votes.

A Floourish election chart

“Therefore, the stance of Advocate Amir Rawn that actually 195 votes were cast in favour of respondent does not restrict this bench to order for second poll as per the aforesaid provision of the Constitution so as to implement the judgment of the honourable apex court straightaway, especially when petitions to the extent of challenging election as a whole stand dismissed by this bench.”

Justice Sethi also said that after excluding the 25 votes, Hamza had 172 votes. “Therefore, he is not member elected within the contemplation of Article 130(4) of the Constitution and being a stranger to the office of chief minister, cannot be allowed to hold the office,” he said.

He went on to say that it would give political advantage to the respondent over the other contesting candidate. “This, the office of a non-elected member cannot be protected which even otherwise appear[s] to be against the mandate of Article133 of the Constitution,” he said.

Justice Sethi said that in view of the above, the constitutional petitions were allowed. “Consequently, Usman Ahmed Khan Buzdar, is restored to the office of Chief Minister of the Punjab with immediate effect, as he was on said date,” he said.