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Political drama unfolds in Pakistan's Punjab province as ruling coalition loses 27 reserved seats

At least 23 PML-N members, two PPP members and others elected in the reserved seats were suspended and barred from House proceedings after a ruling by Pakistan's Supreme Court. The ruling coalition is expected to lose almost two dozen members in the National Assembly.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Lahore Published on: May 11, 2024 17:29 IST
Pakistan, Maryam Nawaz, Punjab provincial government
Image Source : AP (FILE) Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Pakistan's Punjab province

Lahore: The ruling coalition in Pakistan, led by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), lost as many as 27 reserved seats in the Punjab provincial assembly after the Speaker suspended 24 women and three minority Members of the Provincial Assembly (MPAs) and barred them from joining the House proceedings. Among them, 23 belonged to PML-N, two from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and one each from other parties.

Speaker Malik Mohammad Ahmed Khan took the decision on a point of order raised a day ago by opposition lawmaker Rana Aftab of ex-PM Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) during the house proceedings, Dawn reported. This came after Pakistan's Supreme Court suspended a lower court verdict denying the SIC of its share of reserved seats.

Aftab argued that the Supreme Court had suspended the decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of allocating the reserved seats of SIC to other parties on the plea that the SIC had neither contested elections nor had submitted a list of nominees for the seats reserved for women and minorities. Khan had then said that he would take a decision after reports from the advocate general and the provincial law department.

Coalition to lose seats in National Assembly too

According to the Speaker's ruling, they cannot function as members or partake in assembly proceedings until their status is clarified by either the ECP or the Supreme Court. Soon after the beginning of house proceedings on Friday, the speaker read out the Supreme Court order and gave the ruling that Rana Aftab’s point of order was lawful and suspended the 27 members immediately. 

When Aftab said the suspended MPAs had unlawfully voted for the provincial government's resolution condemning May 9 violence, the speaker said he should have raised the matter earlier. Troubles have now mounted for the ruling coalition as it is also set to lose nearly two dozen members in the National Assembly ahead of the crucial budget session.

President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday summoned the National Assembly session on Monday (May 13) and the SIC members are expected to seek a similar ruling from Speaker Ayaz Sadiq. After the February 8 elections, the ECP withheld the notifications on 23 reserved seats, including 20 for women and three for minorities, due to the dispute on the allocation of the seats after the decision of the PTI-backed independents to join the SIC.

Later, the ECP refused to allocate these seats to the SIC and issued notifications distributing these seats to the parties in the ruling coalition headed by the PML-N. The ECP allocated 15 seats reserved for women to the PML-N, four to the PPP and one to the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl). As a result, PML-N became the largest party in the National Assembly with 123 seats whereas the tallies of PPP and the JUI-F rose to 73 and 11, respectively.

How many seats do parties have?

The PML-N had initially won a total of 75 general seats and was joined by nine independents. With the allocation of 19 reserved seats for women and four reserved seats for minorities, the number reached 107. After notifications were issued on March 5, the PML-N had been allocated 15 out of the remaining 20 reserved seats for women and one out of the three remaining seats reserved for minorities, taking the party’s tally to 123 seats.

On the other hand, PPP had won 54 general seats and was allocated 12 seats reserved for women and two for minorities. After the allocation of four more seats reserved for women and one for minorities on March 5, the number of the PPP lawmakers is now 73, still fewer than the PTI-backed independents who had joined the SIC hoping to get reserved seats.

The SC decision is expected to have no effect on the composition of the Balochistan Assembly as PTI had not won any seat in the province in the Feb 8 polls. However, in the provincial assembly of Sindh, the two reserved seats for women were given to PPP from the share of the PTI-SIC, which had nine members. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where PTI-backed independents won 91 seats, 10 reserved seats for women were given to JUI-F, eight to PML-N and six to PPP.

ALSO READ | Pakistan: Imran Khan refuses to apologise for May 9 riots as country observes one-year anniversary

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