LHC orders recount of votes cast in Punjab CM poll

In a major development, the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday ordered the recounting of the votes of the Punjab chief minister’s election excluding the votes of 25 PTI dissidents, while announcing the verdict on the party’s pleas challenging Hamza Shahbaz’s election to the CM slot.

A five-member larger bench of the LHC, headed by Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan, and comprising Justice Shahid Jamil, Justice Shehram Sarwar, Justice Sajid Mehmood Sethi and Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh announced the verdict while accepting the party’s pleas against Hamza’s election as CM on Thursday. 

In a split decision, four judges — Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan, and comprising Justice Shahid Jamil, and Justice Shehram Sarwar— accepted the pleas while Justice Sethi raised some objections. Meanwhile, the court disposed off PML-Q’s pleas.

What does the verdict say?

As per the verdict, the votes will be recounted and the candidate securing a majority of votes will be declared the chief minister.

Article 130(4) of the Constitution of Pakistan governs the election of chief ministers, under which there is an obligation of a majority of 186 votes.

Hamza will no longer be the chief minister if he doesn’t retain the required majority after the exclusion of 25 votes, while the second round of polls will be held as per Article 130(4) in case no one gets the majority after a recount.

“We could, possibly direct fresh election after declaring the election as unlawful but it would nullify the direction by the apex court to the state functionaries for the conduct of election in accordance with the Constitution and the decision by learned Division Bench of this Court, appointing Deputy Speaker as presiding officer and directing for the conduct of the election on 16th April 2022,” the verdict stated.

It further said that the court cannot quash the notification issued by the presiding officer as well.

The verdict obliged the Punjab governor to ensure that the PA session, summoned by him at 4pm on July 1, is held without fail, and not adjourn it without holding the poll.

In addition to this, the governor must ensure administering an to the new CM on July 2, by 11am.

PML-N has majority of 9 votes in Punjab Assembly: Attaullah Tarar

Speaking to the media after the hearing, PML-N leader Attaullah Tarar said that PML-N is happy and content because it has the required numbers. He said that PML-N has 177 votes and that means a majority of nine votes even if the dissidents’ votes are not counted.

The politician said that PTI is unable to understand what the verdict states “in English”.

He said that the SC in its verdict on presidential reference seeking the interpretation on Article 163(A) stated that the votes against the party policy will not be counted.

“The court neither nullified the election nor ordered re-election therefore Hamza Shahbaz will remain the chief minister,” Tarar said, adding that this is a positive decision and the party accepts it. He said that his party believes that they will win this run of the election as well.

Tarar said that it will be a violation of the court’s order if anyone tries to harm the peace in the Punjab Assembly.

The case

PTI had filed five separate pleas challenging the conduct of the Punjab Assembly on April 16, alongside Hamza’s election.

For several weeks, the issue of the Punjab CM election has been a source of a constitutional crisis.

There was a commotion in the Punjab Assembly on the day of the CM’s election and the meeting had to be held under the protection of the Deputy Speaker Police.

Hamza Shahbaz was elected CM on April 16 with 197 votes, while PTI and PML-Q candidate Pervez Elahi received no votes. The PTI had declared a boycott of the CM’s election.

Following Hamza Shahbaz’s election as CM on April 16, the governor of Punjab refused to administer the oath of office to him and the petition for the CM’s oath had been filed in the LHC.

The LHC first requested that the Punjab governor, then the President, to administer the oath to the CM after which PTI filed a petition in the LHC.

A two-member LHC bench had referred the case to the chief justice for the formation of a larger bench.

The petitions of the PTI were heard by a five-member bench of the LHC, where the petitioners argued that the election of the Punjab CM was not fair.

Amid ruckus, Hamza Shahbaz elected Punjab CM

Hamza was elected as chief minister of Punjab in a ruckus-marred session of the Punjab Assembly on April 16, 2022.

Ahead of the vote, three PTI members of the Punjab Assembly were arrested for attacking Deputy Speaker Dost Mohammad Mazari as the party boycotted the session to elect the new chief minister.

Hamza was elected as the new chief minister with 197 votes. While his opponent, Elahi did not receive any votes as his party and PTI had boycotted the polls.