New Delhi: Pakistan’s political uncertainty, that began with the ouster of former Prime Minister Imran Khan and the subsequent formation of a coalition ruling government under Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) leader and now PM Shehbaz Sharif, shows no signs of abating. The crisis has taken a chaotic turn with Imran Khan launching massive countrywide protests, social media campaigns and political strategies, pressurising the ruling government to announce early elections in the country.
The political upheaval has now taken over the country’s largest province Punjab, where the Chief Ministerial election has become a major issue of tussle between Imran Khan’s political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), with both sides leaving no stone unturned to stake claim over the coveted throne.
Notably, Punjab’s first CM elections were held on April 16 this year, in which PML-N’s Hamza Shahbaz claimed majority votes after a complete ruckus in the assembly throughout the day.
However, PTI’s case in the Supreme Court, seeking interpretation of Article 63A of the constitution, in reference to the loyalty of the political party and compulsion of their voting in favour of their respective political parties, coupled with a disqualification and cancellation of membership.
Supreme Court, on the case, stated that no party member can vote or go against its party’s policy, adding that if in case a member votes against its own political party, the vote would be rejected and later the party’s membership of the voter concerned may also be revoked.
Taking reference from the Supreme Court decision, Lahore High Court (LHC) gave its judgment, declaring votes of defected members as rejected and ordered the Punjab Assembly to conduct a second round of voting to elect Punjab CM.
This led to disqualification of 20 members and voting through bypolls in at least 20 constituencies in Punjab, in which Imran Khan’s PTI registered a landslide victory by securing at least 15 out of 20 seats, regaining majority of representation of its members in the Punjab Assembly.
However, despite majority seats in the Punjab Assembly through combined number of PTI and PML-Q, assurance of Imran Khan’s candidate becoming the CM against Hamza Shehbaz, the final outcome came through a letter, written by PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat, who ruled that votes of PML-Q members would not be counted for the position of the chief minister of Punjab.
As the deputy speaker gave his ruling and rejected at least 10 votes of PML-Q, which were in favour of Imran Khan’s candidate Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, the total count of votes of Elahi fell from 186 to 176 while Hamza Shehbaz gained majority and became the Chief Minister of Punjab.
Meanwhile, the deputy speaker’s ruling sparked a debate among lawyers and constitutional experts on the legalities involved in the matter – the consensus being that, while the deputy speaker’s ruling goes against constitutional provisions, it is a consequence largely of the Supreme Court ruling on Article 63A.
Imran Khan on the other hand, has called for immediate protests across the country, and has said that the current ruling government and its strategies to steal votes by use of money, political influence and bribes will not be tolerated any further.
At this juncture, it should be noted that the win in Punjab holds great significance to Imran Khan as this will ensure his position against the ruling government becomes stronger.
Also, Imran Khan will have the option of dissolving assemblies of provinces where his party is in control, including Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and Punjab, forcing the federal government to bring in a caretaker PM and announce early elections within 90 days.
Moreover, Pakistan is reeling under a massive economic crisis with rupee on a free fall against the USD. The country’s economic situation is headed for a complete meltdown with fear of bankruptcy looming large.
Notably, Pakistan’s economic instability is directly linked with the political instability in the country. However, while Imran Khan’s demand for early elections is gaining momentum among the masses, the ruling government of Shehbaz Sharif has also refused to succumb to Imran’s pressure and has decided to complete its political tenure.