On Monday, the Lahore High Court suspended the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) de- notification of all PTI MNAs from Punjab. This decision was made after the PTI resigned en masse from the lower house of parliament in April last year following the ouster of PTI chief Imran Khan. NA speaker Ashraf only accepted 11 of the resignations, stating that the remaining lawmakers would be summoned individually for verification.
After delaying the process for eight months, Ashraf finally accepted the resignations of 34 more PTI MNAs and Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid on Jan 17. Three days later, on Jan 20, the speaker accepted 35 more resignations. A total of 70 PTI lawmakers, including Asad Umar, Fawad Chaudhry, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Andleeb Abbas, Pervaiz Khattak, and others, filed a plea with LHC, seeking court directions to nullify the decision of NA Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf of the acceptance of their resignations as well as the subsequent de-denotification order issued the ECP.
The petitioners urged the court to suspend the notifications from NA Secretariat and the ECP till the final disposal of the plea. However, in its order today, the high court only suspended the ECP order for the MNAs belonging to Punjab. The status of those from other provinces remained unclear, while the court’s written orders are awaited. Meanwhile, the court issued notices to the ECP as well as the NA speaker. The hearing was adjourned till March 7.
Last week, Justice Shahid Karim overruled an objection of the registrar office on a petition of the PTI MNAs challenging the acceptance of their resignations. The office had initially objected to the maintainability of the petition for non-provision of necessary documents. The judge, however, overruled the objection and directed the office to fix the petition before an appropriate bench.
The LHC had on February 8 also suspended the NA speaker’s acceptance of the resignations of 43 PTI lawmakers and put by-elections in 43 constituencies on hold. The court order was pronounced by Justice Shahid Karim on a petition filed by PTI’s Riaz Fatyana and 42 other MNAs against the NA speaker’s acceptance of their resignations and the ECP’s de-notification orders.
The ongoing legal battle over the PTI resignations has led to a political deadlock, with the opposition accusing the government of using underhand tactics to manipulate the electoral process. The PTI has maintained that the resignations were a genuine attempt to protest against the alleged rigging in the 2018 general elections.
The suspension of the ECP’s de-notification order is a significant development in the case, as it means that the PTI MNAs from Punjab will retain their seats in the National Assembly. However, the status of those from other provinces remains unclear, and it is uncertain how the court will rule on the larger issue of the acceptance of the PTI resignations.
The case has also highlighted the challenges faced by Pakistan’s democratic institutions, including allegations of political interference in the electoral process and the lack of consensus among political parties. The coming weeks will be critical in determining the future of the PTI lawmakers and the wider political landscape in Pakistan.
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