Our political process has become too, and we have failed to develop a strong political convention, which is essential for democracy. With the PTI’s landslide victory in hotly contested 20 by-elections in Punjab, all eyes were on the run-off elections for the slot of Punjab Chief Minister as many observers were of the view that its outcome would set the tone for the future of the country’s politics. Pervaiz Elahi, a joint candidate for PTI and PML-Q, secured 186 votes against his rival Hamza Shahbaz who clinched 179 votes in the House but the Deputy Speaker of the Punjab Assembly turned the tide in favour of the minority candidate by rejecting the 10 votes of PML-Q. He ruled that PML-Q members’ votes would not be counted in the light of party head Shujaat Hussain’s letter. The ruling of the deputy speaker is both unconstitutional and not warranted by law as now clarified by the Supreme Court. He misconstrued the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 63-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973. For clarity, Article 63-A and its interpretation in the Presidential Reference is produced below:

Article 63-A (1)states that “If a member of a Parliamentary Party composed of a single political party in a House - (b) votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the Parliamentary Party to which he belongs in relation to - elections of the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister; or a vote of confidence or no-confidence; he may be declared in writing by the Party Head to have defected from the political party, and the Party Head may forward a copy of the declaration to the Presiding Officer and the Chief Election Commissioner and shall similarly forward a copy thereof to the member concerned.”

Article 63-A’s interpretation by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the Presidential Reference also deserves a special mention here. Para 3 of the Supreme Court ruling states that “it is our view that the vote of any member (including deemed member) of a parliamentary party in a House that is cast contrary to any directions issued by the latter in term of para (b) of clause 1 of Article 63-A cannot be counted and must be disregarded, and this is so regardless whether the Party Head, subsequent to such vote, proceed to take, or refrains from taking, an action that would result in the declaration of defection.”

Putting together Article 63-A and its interpretation by the apex court, one can infer that when it comes to the election of Prime Minister or Chief Minister or the vote of confidence resolution or no-confidence resolution, the members of the Parliamentary Party are bound by the directions issued by the latter. The role of the Party Head will come into play after the members of the Parliamentary Party act contrary to the directions. Therefore, in given circumstances, the Parliamentary Party of the PML-Q issued directions to its parliamentary members on 21-07-2022 to attend the session of the Punjab Assembly and vote for Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, candidate for Chief Minister Punjab.

A tussle between the government and the opposition, bad governance, rising food and commodity prices, an increase in inflation, current account deficit, depleting foreign exchange reserves and unannounced load shedding have pushed the economy to the brink and exacerbated the anguish of the masses. It is clear that the country is facing huge internal and external challenges, and further political instability will descend the country into an unending financial crisis. Given the current situation, the political and constitutional crises are deepening in the country and free and fair elections are the only solution to end this crisis. No one can be allowed to make a mockery of the Constitution and law. The country has already suffered a lot and it is time to heal old wounds and keep away from inflicting new ones. This political tug of war will not give victory to any side.