The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is set to announce its verdict in a case pertaining to PTI’s 25 dissident members of the Punjab Assembly (MPAs) on Friday (today). The verdict is expected to be announced at 3pm. The ECP, which was due to decide the fate of 25 defecting PTI MPAs who had switched party loyalties ahead of the election of the provincial chief minister, had deferred announcement of the decision a day earlier and said it would first issue notices to the respondents instead. Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi had sent a reference to the ECP against 25 PTI dissidents who had reportedly voted against the party policy in the election for the Punjab chief minister on April 16. Earlier, lawyers of all the parties had presented arguments before the ECP. After listening to their arguments, the ECP bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, had reserved the verdict. The Commission, in its May 11 verdict, had rejected the disqualification reference against the MNAs of the PTI involved in floor-crossing during the no-confidence motion against PTI Chairman Imran Khan. The ECP said in its verdict that the reference against defecting MNAs of the PTI was “not in line with the Constitution”. It is pertinent to mention here that the Supreme Court had Tuesday ruled that the votes of dissident parliamentarians cast against their parliamentary party’s directives could not be counted. The verdict by the larger bench of the apex court was a 3-2 split decision. Majority of judges opposed allowing lawmakers to vote against the party line in four instances outlined under Article 63-A of the Constitution. These four instances are the election of prime minister and chief minister; a vote of confidence or no-confidence; a Constitution amendment bill; and a money bill. Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar gave the majority verdict, while Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail were the dissenting judges, who said that giving an opinion on the presidential reference was akin to “rewriting the Constitution”, says a news report. In the reference, President Arif Alvi had asked four main questions from the apex court: Should Article 63-A have a limited or a broad, purpose-oriented interpretation? Will the defecting members’ vote be counted, given equal weightage? Will the defectors be disqualified for life? Measures that can be taken to prevent defection, floor crossing and vote-buying.