• peaker de-seats 24 members on women reserved seats, three on minorities’ seats in PA
  • PPP also dashes ruling party’s hope about joining federal cabinet

LAHORE: What is being described as a major blow to the ruling PML-N, Punjab Assembly Speaker Malik Ahmad Khan on Friday suspended the membership of 27 MPAs of the ruling coalition elected on reserved seats.

The development comes in view of the Supreme Court’s verdict whereby it had suspended the Election Commission and Peshawar High Court’s (PHC) decisions to deny reserved seats for women and minorities to the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) — the new home for PTI lawmakers-elect.

A three-member SC bench, headed by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Athar Minallah issued the order while admitting the SIC appeal against the PHC order.

As proceedings of the Punjab Assembly began on Friday, Speaker Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan read the decision in the House, citing the apex court’s ruling, and ordered the de-seated members to vacate their seats immediately.

The Speaker upheld the point of order tabled by opposition member Rana Aftab on certain reserved seats, leading to the de-seating of the Punjab ruling alliance members.

SIC’s Malik Aftab raised objections and read out the Supreme Court’s decision regarding the members elected on reserved seats.

At which, the speaker validated the opposition member’s point of order and ordered the suspension of the membership of the nominated members on the reserved seats of the ruling alliance immediately.

Following the speaker’s ruling, 24 women reserved seats and three minorities’ seats fell vacant in the Punjab Assembly. The suspension of 27 members also decreased the number of seats of the ruling party to 200 while the Sunni Ittehad Council holds 106 seats, and the PPP is the third-largest party with 15 seats in the provincial assembly.

Similarly, the PML-Q has 11 seats, the Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP) has 7 seats, while the PML-Z, Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM), and Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) each hold one seat in the Punjab Assembly.

Among those suspended from reserved minority seats are Tariq Masih Gul, Waseem Anjum, and Basruji.

Meanwhile, members of the Sunni Ittehad Council lauded the speaker’s decision by thumping the table.

On December 22, 2023, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had stripped the PTI of its election symbol due to irregularities in its intra-party elections. The Supreme Court later upheld the ECP’s order, leading the party to field its candidates as independents in the February 8 general elections.

Subsequently, independent candidates supported by the PTI joined the SIC and applied to the ECP for allocation of seats reserved for women and minorities in the national and provincial legislatures.

However, on March 4, the ECP dismissed the request, citing the SIC’s failure to submit a priority list of candidates for reserved seats prior to the polls. The SIC challenged the order in the PHC, which on March 14 upheld the ECP’s decision. The SIC later appealed to the Supreme Court, which suspended the PHC ruling in favour of PTI.

 

‘PPP dashes PML-N hopes’

Meanwhile, the PPP dashed the ruling party’s hope about the former joining the federal cabinet and its chairman Bilawal Bhutto becoming the foreign minister again.

According to PPP insiders, the party is not in a hurry to join the federal cabinet before the budget or even after it.

Referring to the recent meeting between PM Shehbaz Sharif and Bilawal, they claimed there was no discussion on joining the federal cabinet.

“Rather Bilawal, during the meeting, emphasized the need for making the purchase of wheat mandatory”, they added.

The leader termed the reports suggesting that the PPP was joining the cabinet after the budget “speculative”, saying that no such discussion had taken place during the meetings between the two sides.

It is to be noted that recently the party sources had revealed that the ruling allies – the PML-N and PPP were close to a power-sharing deal and Bilawal was likely to return as the country’s foreign minister.

Earlier this month, the premier and Bilawal had met at the PM’s House to finalise the names of the governors for Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

According to an official statement, PM Shehbaz and Bilawal discussed the overall political situation in the country.

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