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Pakistan’s Supreme Court says defecting lawmakers’ votes will not be counted

Pakistan’s Supreme Court held that the votes of the defecting members of Parliament cannot be counted.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan, (PTI photo)

In a landmark judgement, Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the votes of dissident members of the Parliament, cast against their parliamentary party’s directives, cannot be counted.

A five-member bench issued a 3-2 split decision, with a majority of the judges not allowing lawmakers to vote against party line under Article 63-A of the Constitution.

However, on the key issue of the duration of disqualification of the lawmakers for voting against the party decisions, the court asked the parliament to legislate on the issue.

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar gave the majority verdict while Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail disagreed with the verdict.

ALSO READ | Pakistan’s SC fails to find immediate solution as country remains in throes of constitutional crisis

The case was based on reference sent by President Arif Alvi in March for the opinion of the apex court when then prime minister Imran Khan faced a revolt from within his party after a no-confidence motion was submitted against him. The hearings continued for 58 days since its filing.

Later, Khan was ousted by the opposition parties even without any of his dissenting lawmakers voting against him.

But in the largest province of Punjab, Khan’s party – the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – chief minister resigned and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz nominee, Hamza Shehbaz, was elected as chief minister with the support of more than dozen PTI provincial lawmakers.

ALSO READ | Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif bats for meaningful engagement with India

The fate of Punjab chief minister may be hanging with a thread after the verdict, as without the support of PTI lawmakers, he would not have become a chief minister.

The verdict may further deepen the political and governmental crisis in Pakistan as opposition PTI would try to force the Punjab chief minister to go step down.

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