Numbers’ game in Punjab Assembly tilts towards PML-N

 

LAHORE    -   The numbers’ game in Punjab Assembly has slightly tilted towards the PPP-PML-N alliance following the Election Commission’ decision to withhold notification on five reserved seats of the PTI till the outcome of July 17 by-polls.

The Election Commission will reallocate the reserved seats to the political parties keeping in view the new party position after the by-polls to be held on July 17 for 20 general seats. After its failure to win back its five reserved seats, the PTI is now left with 158 seats in Punjab Assembly. Since its ally, the PML-Q, has got 10 members, their combined strength comes to 168, six numbers short of the simple majority which is 174 in a house of 346.

As the PML-N has also lost support of 25 MPAs who had voted for Hamza Shehbaz, the joint strength of the ruling alliance has been reduced to 172 from 197. But since the PML-N has of late won the support of two more independent members, Bilal Asghar Warraich and Ahmad Ali Aulak, the alliance’s total numerical strength in the Assembly stands at 174, just enough a number to maintain a simple majority. The situation regarding the respective numerical strengths of different political parties in the provincial house will however change after the July 17 by-elections. All the 20 defectors are electable with greater following in their respective constituencies. Most of them will be contesting elections on the PML-N’s symbol, and they are most likely to return to the Assembly. If the PML-N manages to sustain its simple majority till the outcome of by-polls, it will get more seats and strengthen its grip over the government with comfortable majority in the House. Also, with their reduced strength in the Assembly, the PTI and the PML-Q are not able to vote out Deputy Speaker Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari against whom they have moved a no-trust motion. The PML-N is also not in a position at this stage to get a no-trust motion passed against Speaker Ch Parvez Elahi since a simple majority of the total membership (186/371) of the Assembly is required for such a motion to succeed. The ruling party in Punjab will have to wait till results of the by-polls to make such a move though it has already submitted a no-trust motion against the speaker. Meanwhile, Speaker Punjab Assembly Ch Parvez Elahi has rescheduled the Assembly sitting which will now be held on June 16 instead of June 6. Punjab Governor, however, can prorogue the present session any time which continues unabated since April 2. According to Assembly rules, the Assembly is supposed to be in session despite not having its meetings if speaker so desires. He can do so through frequent adjournments. A five-member ECP bench – headed by CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja – announced the reserved verdict in light of LHC directives to dispose of the matter by June 2.

According to the verdict, the allocation of reserved seats — three women and two minorities — would be notified after the conclusion of the by-election for 20 vacant Punjab Assembly seats.

At the outset of the hearing, Advocate General Punjab Shehbaz Shaukat told ECP that Punjab Assembly electoral college would complete after by-elections on 20 Punjab Assembly general seats that fell vacant after PTI lawmakers were de-notified by ECP. Attorney General for Pakistan Ashraf Ausaf also appeared before the commission. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Faisal Chaudhry and PML-N’s lawyer completed their respective arguments.