In a decision that was widely expected, the ECP has rejected PTI references seeking deseating of its 20 dissident MNAs. Also unsurprising was the fact that the PTI will challenge the ruling, as is their right.
Surprising, however, was how party leaders and supporters continued to direct vitriol at Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, accusing him of being sympathetic to the PML-N, even though the only reason Raja has the job is that former prime minister Imran Khan picked him. Then again, the only reason Imran is a former PM is also the dissidents he gave tickets to. So perhaps this is a veiled admission of the party chief’s poor judgement of character.
The requirement for MNAs to face dismissal for ‘voting their conscience’ instead of following the party line is anti-democratic at worst and problematic at the very least — elected officials should be duty-bound to their constituents, not their party leaders. Unfortunately, the law does not clearly differentiate between defection and a vote of conscience by someone who is otherwise loyal to their party. However, while the law is not about to change because it serves the interests of party chiefs, it is interesting that the ECP appears to have agreed with the accused lawmakers that PTI had failed to follow the rather simple procedure for their removal.
Similar problems are also expected in the PTI’s reference against its Punjab MPAs, as some procedural steps, such as waiting for the MPAs to reply to show-cause notices, appear to have been skipped. This, coupled with the PTI’s repeated sagas over resigning from assemblies, has many analysts wondering if these are just tricks to inspire the base.
Also notable is the fact that despite tall claims about the lawmakers having been bribed to break from the party line, the PTI has offered no evidence to support this claim of outright criminal conduct. At the same time, the party has not really done much to refute accusations from the accused lawmakers and disgruntled former party workers regarding the incompetence and corruption of the PTI government. The Supreme Court has also brought up the exchange of accusations while hearing a case on the application of Article 63-A.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2022.
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