In a decisive judgment, the Supreme Court – in its decision on a presidential reference seeking interpretation of Article 63-A of the Constitution which is related to the status of defecting lawmakers – said the votes of defecting lawmakers will not be counted. The judgement is monumental and will significantly influence Pakistani politics in future.
The bench with a majority voice did not allow legislators to vote against party line in four instances as stated under Article 63-A: the election of PM and CM; a vote of confidence or no-confidence; a Constitution amendment bill; and a money bill.
In any future voting on the four specific instances highlighted in Article 63A, the order hopes to take away any temptation to indulge in the sale and purchase of votes. It also hopes to give political parties a greater sense of security.
Meanwhile, the larger bench refused to be judgmental on the span of disqualification, whether lifetime or for a specific period of time, and left for the parliament to decide. Likewise, it said Article 63-A cannot be read in isolation and has to be looked into in a holistic sense.
The honourable Court may have left this game-changing precedent, but it did not follow up with the technicalities that remain. It remains to be seen whether this verdict will be applied retrospectively or prospectively, leaving a big question mark on the validity of Hamza Shehbaz’s Chief Ministership.
The decision will find its maximum at the ECP, which is set to decide the fate of PTI defectors in the Punjab Assembly today. However, the ruling has no immediate bearing on the federal government as dissenting PTI MNAs never actually voted against their party in the vote of no-confidence against Imran Khan.
Nevertheless, it is hoped that this verdict does not lead to further political rivalry and instability, which is the last thing the country needs considering the fiscal crisis we find ourselves in. Unfortunately, this does not seem likely considering the political power play we might see with PML-N in the centre and a possible PTI government in Punjab.