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Pakistan court orders fresh re-counting of votes in Punjab province by excluding votes of 25 dissidents from Imran Khan’s party

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Lahore:  A Pakistan court on Thursday ordered the recounting of votes in the elections for the post of the Punjab Chief Minister held on April 16, saying the votes of the 25 dissidents of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party should be excluded from the counting process.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s son Hamza was appointed the Chief Minister of Punjab province on April 16, with a resounding majority of 197 votes — 11 more than the required 186 – which included 25 dissidents from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party led by ousted prime minister Khan.

On May 20, these lawmakers were de-seated by the Pakistan Election Commission under the deflection clause.

Hamza, who belongs to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMN-N) led by his father, Shehbaz Sharif, will no longer be the Punjab 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.

If the required majority for Hamza — which is 186 votes in the 371-member strong house — to stay the Chief Minister is not secured, the election will be held again under Article 130(4), unless another candidate has the majority.

A five-member bench of the Lahore High Court comprising Justice Sadaqat Ali Khan, Justice Shahid Jamil Khan, Justice Shehram Sarwar Chaudhry, Justice Sajid Mahmood Sethi and Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh announced the verdict with a 4-1 majority.

The court said that Hamza will cease to be the chief minister if he loses the required majority after the exclusion of 25 votes by the presiding officer.

“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.

For the recounting of votes and re-election, if required, a Provincial Assembly session will be held on July 1 at 4pm, the court ruled.

The Lahore High Court stressed that the session cannot be prorogued until the election process was completed and the presiding officer “intimated the result of the elected chief minister to the governor”.

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