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Blow to Pakistan's ruling coalition: Election Commission disqualifies 25 defecting lawmakers of the Punjab assembly

With today’s order from the Election Commission, the position of Chief Minister Hamza Sharif, who was relying on the support of defectors from Khan’s party, appears shaky. The Lahore High Court also issued a notice to Hamza in response to a petition filed by Elahi, challenging his election as the chief minister as “illegal.”

May 20, 2022
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Blow to Pakistan's ruling coalition: Election Commission disqualifies 25 defecting lawmakers of the Punjab assembly (Photo: Dawn)

In what appears a blow to Pakistan’s ruling coalition in its most populous province, the country’s Election Commission on Friday ordered the unseating of 25 lawmakers who cross-voted in favor of Hamza Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab and the son of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. 

The order came in a reference moved the speaker of the Punjab Assembly, Pervaiz Elahi, seeking disqualification of 25 lawmakers of the PTI, the party of former prime minister Imran Khan, who had voted for Hamza by going against the directives issued by their own party.

The order came under Article 63-A which pertains to defection. Hamza won the trust vote last month after 25 PTI lawmakers defected from the PTI.

The order is the second major setback—after the Supreme Court passed a reference under Article 63-A disallowing the counting of cross-votes—for the ruling coalition that had been hoping to keep Imran Khan’s party’s PTI out of power, at least until the next elections.

With today’s order from the Election Commission, the position of Chief Minister Hamza Sharif, who was relying on the support of defectors from Khan’s party, appears shaky. The Lahore High Court also issued a notice to Hamza in response to a petition filed by Elahi, challenging his election as the chief minister as “illegal.” With a population of over 110 million, Punjab is the country’s most politically influential province. For the most part of the last three decades, the ruling PML-N, the party of the Sharif family, has dominated the politics in the province. However, in the last few years, the Sharif family’s grip on power weakened, firstly when the Supreme Court disqualified its former leader Nawaz Sharif as prime minister, and secondly, when the party lost the 2018 elections to its rival PTI. The family’s recent return to power now appears uncertain, as a series of recent orders of the apex court and now the Election Commission has shaken its political calculations. 

(SAM)

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