June 30, 2022
By Ahmed Saeed
LAHORE: On Thursday, a five-member bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC), while ruling on petitions filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) against the election of Hamza Shahbaz as Punjab Chief Minister (CM), directed the Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Assembly to conduct another poll between Shahbaz and Pervez Elahi under Article 4 (4) of the Constitution of Pakistan. The court also directed the Assembly to convene a meeting tomorrow at 4:00 pm for this purpose.
According to the order, the Deputy Speaker has been directed to not count the votes of the 25 defecting members of the PTI cast during the April 16 Punjab CM elections. In the case that a simple majority cannot be achieved, the Deputy Speaker should hold a re-vote, by which the candidate who is voted in favor by a majority of the members of the House will be elected Punab CM.
The court also stated in its verdict that contempt-of-court proceedings would be initiated against any member attempting to disrupt the re-polling. Furthermore, the bench directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to take action against v-loggers attempting to scandalize today’s proceedings.
Former Advocate-General Punjab and PTI leader Ahmed Owais termed the verdict “a mischievous generosity”
“[Shahbaz] will be told he is no longer CM for about an hour or so, and after polling he will be re-elected,” he told Voicepk.net. “This was the court’s mischievous generosity [toward the PTI].”
Currently, the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) has 165 members in the Punjab Assembly post-deseating of dissident members of the PTI, and has the support of seven members of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and six other members. Meanwhile, the PTI has 158 members and has the support of ten members of the Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q).
The LHC has previously ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to issue notifications to allot five currently empty reserved women’s seats to the PTI. However, since the directive has yet to be issued as a written order, it is unlikely that the notification will be issued by tomorrow’s re-polling.
Regarding today’s verdict, former Attorney General for Pakistan Irfan Qadir held that the decision was incorrect as proceedings that concluded prior to the order cannot be retrospectively declared null and void.
“This is no interpretation. This is rewriting the Constitution. If things took their normal course, the LHC should not have relied on the Supreme Court’s judgement that the votes of the dissident PTI members not be counted. It is completely wrong, the Constitution has no such provision,” he said. “And even if we consider for a moment that the Supreme Court’s ruling was correct, it cannot impact past and closed things. If that were the case, then the Supreme Court would have voided Shahbaz’s CM-ship itself.”
However, former Chair of the Senate and senior lawyer Wasim Sajjad was of the view that the LHC’s decision was correct as it has provided an interpretation of existing law.
“The court interpreted an existing law, it did not bring in another law. It is not retrospective since the law is already there, the court only explained it.”
Legal and political experts believe that today’s verdict could once again lead to a constitutional crisis in Punjab, which was resolved after much chaos in April following a series of court rulings.