The Supreme Court’s 3-2 split decision on the interpretation of Article 63-A of the constitution has clarified that votes of defecting lawmakers will not be counted, but the jury is still out on whether this will help resolve or just deepen the constitutional crisis that has enveloped Punjab for close to two months now. It’s clear that Hamza Shahbaz no longer has the votes to remain chief minister, but it’s not yet clear if the next option is a vote of confidence from the house or dissolution of the assembly and a call for a fresh election in the province. Or, as some are conjecturing, if Usman Buzdar will return to the CM’s office, considering that Governor Cheema, whose position is itself mired in controversy, rejected his resignation. Hamza obtained 26 votes from dissenting MPs (Members of Parliament) to shoot past the 186 minimum required and reached 197. Without them, he falls short of the necessary majority. But so does PTI’s candidate, Pervaiz Elahi. Legal experts seem divided in the immediate aftermath of the SC’s short order about whether the law mandates a vote of confidence, where whoever scores a simple majority is declared the CM regardless of the final number, or if there is a provision to go straight for an all-out election. And since the call for either of those options has to come from the sitting governor, which Punjab is without at the moment, the SC order has only added one more layer of controversy to the province’s politics; at least for the time being. All eyes are now on the ECP (Election Commission of Pakistan), which is about to deliver its verdict on the matter of lifetime ban for dissenters. There’s also the question of those of these 26 MPs, at least 8-10 of them, that won the last election on independent seats and only later joined PTI. There could well be more loopholes that people that did not run on the party ticket can exploit in their favour. PTI has taken the decision as a vindication of its position and reiterated its call for a nationwide general election because, it says, it strips both the Punjab and federal governments of their legitimacy. The PML-N-led government did not offer an immediate statement, but they’re very likely to point out that they have the numbers in the centre even without the two votes that came from dissenters. There’s also the fact that this was the SC’s interpretation of Article 63-A in response to a presidential reference, it was not a verdict; and its standing as a precedent is already being openly debated. That is why this matter is most likely headed right back to court. While the SC has settled a very important point, it has also raised very crucial questions. A lot of them have to do with the immediate constitutional way forward for a province without a CM and a governor. But a few are a little more long-term; like the amount and manner of dissent allowed within political parties that form governments, at all levels, in functioning parliamentary democracies.