Decimated legislatures

A stay order from the SC has also put in uncertainty the legality of Senators elected on the manufactured majority

May 15, 2024


A seismic shift has occurred on the floor of the National Assembly as the membership of legislators on reserved seats stands suspended. This has denied the ruling coalition of its two-third majority, which it had proclaimed due to the law being silent over constitutional interpretation of Article 51 which pertains to the party-based proportional strength of nominated members. A stay order from the Supreme Court has also put in uncertainty the legality of Senators elected on the manufactured majority, and likewise members of provincial assemblies in Punjab, K-P and Sindh. The move is an outcome of the sustained litigation by the opposition PTI which went from pillar to post for securing its due representation as its numerical strength was not recognised by the Election Commission on the premise of returning to the house as independent candidates.

This has literally opened a Pandora’s Box and derailed the government’s plans to resource certain amendments in the Constitution, especially concerning extension of few incumbents in high constitutional offices. Though the final verdict from the five-member top court’s bench is awaited, the crisscross of lawsuits hints that decimation is there to stay. This has also highlighted the executive highhandedness of the electoral watchdog which was unrelenting in pushing the PTI to the wall, and did not cede to any of the privileges that the PTI-Sunni Ittehad Council nomenclature would have procured by law.

The suspension and subsequent de-notification from the Election Commission has once again flagged the impartiality and transparency of the February 8 elections. Apart from delaying the formation of house committees, it will also lead to a lackluster session of the parliament on the eve of a contested budgetary session. Last but not least, this predicament of the ruling dispensation could further aggravate if the superior courts outlawed many of the legislators’ election on the writ of Form-45, and replace them with PTI stalwarts. The election tribunals are already half way in deciding over the issue, and the pendulum is swinging.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2024.

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