ISLAMABAD: Without the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) at its back, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) goes to contest an all-important election to choose chief executive of the country today (Friday).
The party has decided to resort to the defection clause against those party lawmakers who may possibly opt to vote against party chief Shehbaz Sharif.
In the light of existing constitutional provisions, the defection clause applies (on defectors) in the elections of prime minister and chief ministers.
It does not apply to defections in the elections of speaker and deputy speaker of assemblies and Senate chairman. But, the PML-N leaders insist they would move references in the Election Commission of Pakistan against the defecting lawmakers during speaker and deputy speaker elections in the Punjab Assembly as well as against those who would possibly defect during prime minster election in the National Assembly today.
In what appears to be a major setback for the joint opposition, the PPP has already indicated that it has reservations over the candidature of Shehbaz for the prime minister slot and asked the N-League to have his name replaced with any other party candidate.
However, the PML-N has rejected the demand and party president is contesting against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Inaf supremo Imran Khan for the coveted slot of the leader of the house in the National Assembly.
In the Punjab Assembly on Thursday, up to 15 PML-N lawmakers defected in favour of PTI-backed Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi from the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid for the speakership who managed to secure his seat against PML-N’s Chaudhry Iqbal Gujjar.
The PML-N leadership does not want this episode to be repeated in the lower house of parliament, senior party leaders said requesting anonymity.
“Unlike the elections of speakers and deputy speakers, the elections of PM and chief ministers are held through open ballot. Given that our party President Shehbaz himself is contesting the PM elections, any defections in favour of the PTI would be highly embarrassing for him — both at political and personal levels,” said a newly-elected PML-N MNA.
He said the PML-N leadership wants that those members who are expected to vote against Shehbaz should skip the NA session today.
“It is better that our members who would possibly defect should not show up in the assembly,” the source said.
When contacted senior party leader and newly elected PML-N MNA Rana Sanaullah said the party would “not spare the lawmakers who breached our trust and voted for rival parties”.
He said the PML-N would move reference against the defecting members in Punjab and the National Assembly.
“Since the speaker and deputy speaker elections are held through secret ballot, we would launch an internal inquiry to determine who voted for the rival candidates in the Punjab Assembly. The action would then be taken accordingly.”
Sanaullah slammed the PPP for its refusal to support Shehbaz in the PM’s election. He said Shehbaz’s candidature to contest the PM’s election was approved by the joint opposition.
“It was the understanding between political parties from the forum of the Grand Opposition Alliance that he (Shehbaz) would be the candidate for the premiership, Khursheed Shah from the PPP for NA speaker and Asad Mehmood from the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal for the post of deputy speaker.
“We honoured this commitment and voted for the PPP and the MMA candidates in the respective elections of NA speaker and deputy speaker. The PPP should show some credibility and stand by its commitment to vote for the PML-N candidate now,” he told The Express Tribune.
Article 63-A reads, “(l) If a member of a parliamentary Party composed of a single political party in a House (a) resigns from membership of his political party or joins another Parliamentary Party; or (b) votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the Parliamentary Party to which he belongs, in relation to (i) election of the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister; or (ii) a vote of confidence or a vote of no-confidence; or (iii) a Money Bill or a Constitution (Amendment) Bill; he may be declared in writing by the Party Head to have defected from the political party, and the Party Head may forward a copy of the declaration to the Presiding Officer and the Chief Election Commissioner and shall similarly forward a copy thereof to the member concerned: Provided that before making the declaration, the Party Head shall provide such member with an opportunity to show cause as to why such declaration may not be made against him.”
Meanwhile, senior PPP leader Khursheed Shah told the media on Thursday that the PPP had conveyed its reservations to the PML-N over Shehbaz’s candidature.
“We have some reservations regarding the candidate,” Shah said hinting that PPP would be ready to vote for PML-N if those reservations were addressed.
He, however, refused to elaborate on the nature of the PPP’s reservations regarding Shehbaz.