News analysis: Defections and disqualifications

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  • Is the PML-N really haemorrhaging ‘electables’?

Today’s verdict has all but ended Khawaja Asif’s political career as his appeal in the Supreme Court (SC) is unlikely to reverse the Islamabad High Court (IHC) verdict. Three prominent politicians have now fallen under the sword of 62 (1) (f), which after the SC’s interpretation of the law now carries a lifetime disqualification sentence.

Similar to the rationale in the Nawaz Sharif disqualification verdict Khawaja too has been declared neither Sadiq (truthful) nor Ameen (honest) for holding a UAE work permit (iqama) and not disclosing his assets (receivable salary) in his nomination papers for the 2013 general elections. In fact this particular judgement refers to Nawaz Sharif’s SC verdict as well. Perhaps that is why the PML-N itself and probably Khwaja Asif too were not all that optimistic about the outcome of the case given how their own party head had met the same fate for more or less the same offences.

Then there are the ongoing defections from the party starting with the Balochistan episode that was crucial in creating an upset for the ruling party in the Senate elections. Most recently the south Punjab posse notorious for keeping ‘all options open at all times’ has jumped ship under the oft-repeated agenda to create a separate province of South Punjab, a mere slogan that dies out almost immediately after elections are concluded. All told the hit is a total of eight MNA’s so far – but a drop in the pond.

While the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar provides almost on a daily basis a new and unique example of impromptu judicial activism, including suo motu notices and lambasting chief ministers and other senior government officials for poor governance, the ubiquitous establishment is also flexing its muscles. According to critics the outcome may be that of a hung parliament rather than any one party having a simple majority.

But how do you break up the behemoth that is the PML-N so quickly? Minus its alliances currently it has 178 seats in the lower house and it takes 172 to form a simple majority (half of a total of 342 seats). So in theory at least half of those 172 sitting MNA’s will have to shift parties or run independently for the possibility of a hung parliament to even exist. That is a tall order! Some analysts contend that if the powers that be have realised that it may take longer than the few months left in the elections to achieve that magic number number then a delay in elections is likely.

However the situation may become less muddied after the NAB verdict against Nawaz Sharif that is due soon and the composition of the interim set up is revealed.