The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) approached the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday seeking lifetime disqualification of 16 former PTI lawmakers, now contesting the upcoming Punjab Assembly by-elections on Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) tickets, a private TV channel reported. The petition before the electoral watchdog stated that the defection of the former PTI members had caused “immense loss” to the PTI-led majority in the provincial assembly and subsequently “gave rise to a contentious dispute” between Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz and Chaudhry Pervez Elahi. It maintained that the respondents of the petition had voted for Hamza Shahbaz, against party orders to support Elahi, thus allowing PTI to become an “ostensible minority” and allowing Hamza to “assert success in a disputed election”. The petition highlighted that the ECP on May 20 had declared the respondents to “be guilty of defection” and was declared to no longer be members of the Punjab Assembly, with their seats “accordingly held vacant under the referred provision of the Constitution”. It further stated that the Supreme Court judgment of May 17 had confirmed that the defectors’ votes were not to be counted in the assembly, causing a “severe setback to” Hamza with reference to his election in the PA. The petition said that in the upcoming Punjab by-elections with 20 remaining constituencies, the “defectors of PTI have been directly incentivised/rewarded with party tickets by PML(N) which now claims to hold majority” in Punjab. “The party tickets by PML (N) have been given to these defectors as a reward/incentive for their participation in a conspiracy which succeeded due to their unholy/immoral and unlawful defection and thereby thus deposed a democratically elected government in Punjab,” the petition stated. Keeping in view that the “defectors” had not challenged nor appealed the decision of the commission rendering them guilty of violating their party affiliation, the PTI pleaded that the respondents be disqualified from partaking in the upcoming by-elections. “As per the mandatory requirement of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution, the respondents are not eligible to contest or to be elected a member of the Punjab Assembly in the scheduled elections to be held on July 17, 2022. They are most certainly disqualified for the same,” it stated. It further said that the ECP had to ensure that people who did not meet the criteria of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution were not allowed to contest elections and that their disqualification was “enforced”. The petition prayed that “the respondents be forthwith debarred and restrained to participate/contest the referred by-elections by the Commission; directions be graciously issued to all state functionaries/officials to act in accordance with the direction of the Commission”.