LAHORE - Ever since de-seating of its 25 defectors who had voted for Hamza Shehbaz in chief minister’s election held on April 16, the PTI has been demanding of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to notify names of new members against the five reserved seats which fell vacant after disqualification of its legislators.

The PTI also moved the Lahore High Court which has directed the ECP to take a decision on the matter till June 2 (tomorrow). The ECP has called its meeting tomorrow to settle the issue. Can the PTI turn the tables on the PML-N if it manages to win back the five reserved seats it is laying its claim on? Will it change the numbers’ game in Punjab Assembly to its favour? To get answers to these questions one needs to understand the two underlying rules which determine the number of reserved seats a political party should have in an Assembly.

According to one basic rule, the reserved seats are allocated to the parties in proportion to the number of general seats they have won in the Assembly. This means that a political party having a greater number of general seats than other parties will be entitled to have more reserved seats in an Assembly.

The other rule which applies on the reserved seats is about the re-allocation of these seats to a political party if any number of reserved seats from its allocated quota fall vacant due to death, resignation or disqualification of legislators elected on these seats. In such a scenario, all the reserved seats which fall vacant are returned to that party. The ECP notifies new members picking names from a priority list already submitted with the commission by the political parties. Ironically, the PTI is insisting on the application of second rule seeking all its reserved seats back while conveniently ignoring the first rule which provides the basis for allocation of such seats.

| Lahore High Court has directed ECP to take decision on the matter till June 2 (tomorrow)

 

Legal experts believe the second rule cannot be invoked in this case since the PTI has also lost 20 general seats along with five reserved seats. The resultant situation has curtailed its entitlement to get reserved seats based on the formula of general seats.  Seemingly, the ECP is reluctant to apply the second rule in this situation and would like to wait for the results of the by-elections announced for 20 general seats. It is because if the PTI is given back its five seats before the by-elections, the numbers’ game about the general seats may change after the by-polls since the PTI may not be able to retain all the 20 seats.

Following de-seating of its 20 members elected on general seats, the PTI is now left with 126 general seats in the Punjab Assembly. The PML-N, on the other hand, has 131 general seats, five more than the PTI. The PML-Q and the PPP have eight and six general seats respectively in the provincial House. If the reserved seats are re-allocated at this stage keeping in view the existing strength of general seats of the political parties, the PTI is sure to lose at least three reserved seats of women while the minority seats will remain unaffected according to the formula of distribution of seats.

In the present situation, the general seats in Punjab Assembly have been reduced to 277 from 297 as a result of disqualification of 20 PTI legislators elected on the general seats. If we divide 277 with 66 (the total number of women seats), 4.196 general seats make one woman seat. Now, if we divide the number 126 (PTI’s general seats) with 4.196, it comes to 30.02, meaning thereby the PTI would have 30 reserved seats instead of 33, the number it had previously before de-seating of its three women legislators. These three seats should be distributed among the PML-N, the PPP and the PML-Q. If the said formula is applied on the rest of the parties in proportion to the number of their general seats, the PML-N should get 2 more women seats whereas the PPP can have one more. The PML-Q will not get any since it has already got the second women seat at a close margin after the 2018 general elections.

But even if the ECP decides to return all the five seats to the PTI considering the second rule, it will only improve its tally in the Assembly from existing 158 to 163. After addition of 10 seats of the PML-Q, their combined strength will come to 173, still three numbers short of the simple majority (176 out of 351) in the hypothetical situation if the PTI gets back five reserved seats before the bye-elections on 20 general seats. In the likely scenario, the five reserved seats will not be of any use to the PTI and the PML-Q as it will not raise their numerical strength to the extent that they can pose any danger to the chief managership of Hamza Shehbaz.