ECP consolidates all pleas on reserved seats : PMLN, PPP, MQMP eyeing reserved seats claimed by PTI-backed SIC

Khalid Iqbal & Mumtaz Alvi
Wednesday, Feb 28, 2024

RAWALPINDI: The Election Commission of Pakistan on Tuesday heard the petitions on the allotment of reserved seats to Sunni Ittehad Council and contention of other parties and decided to hold hearings again on Wednesday (today), consolidating all the pleas to prevent conflicting orders.

The five-member full bench of the commission, chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, heard the matter along with representatives of the petitioners Tuesday. After adjourning the hearing, the commission issued an order.

The order states: “The Commission has received six different applications referred to hereinabove, submitted by different petitioners. The petitions involve common questions of law and facts regarding the interpretation of various Articles of the Constitution and Sections of the Elections Act, 2017 and the Rules framed thereunder.

“Therefore, the commission decides to consolidate all the petitions with the applications of the SIC to avoid conflicting orders. Furthermore, the commission decides to issue notice to all the political parties having representation in the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies concerned.”

Earlier, the commission resumed hearing the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) petition for the allotment of reserved seats after independents had joined it, as well as the six petitions filed against the SIC’s contention. PMLN leaders Azam Nazeer Tarar, Attaullah Tarar, Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Captain (retd) Safdar, Farooq H Naek from the PPP, Babar Awan from Sunni Ittehad Council, PTI’s Barrister Gohar Khan, Barrister Ali Zafar and Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan’s Farogh Naseem appeared before the bench.

Ali Zafar, counsel for the Sunni Ittehad Council, argued that they had applied for the allotment of reserved seats and said he did not know why these opposing applicants had come.

Azam Nazeer Tarar said: “We have come as a political party and not in a personal capacity; we have come for those reserved seats that have not yet been allotted.” He also argued that the Sunni Ittehad Council could not get even a single seat in the National Assembly and asked how independent members could be assembled in such a party and given reserved seats. Responding to him, Barrister Ali Zafar argued that the Sunni Ittehad Council should get the reserved seats as per the Constitution, law and justice.

ECP member from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Ikramullah Khan, said the PMLN, PPP and MQMP have requested to distribute the reserved seats among them. Senator Ali Zafar requested to provide copies of the petitions and sought permission to argue on Wednesday.

Farooq H Naek argued that the election commission should issue notices to all the parliamentary parties as parties to the matter. The question, he pointed out, is whether the Sunni Alliance Council as a party has the right to reserved seats or not.

During the hearing, the chief election commissioner remarked that the case should be left to the election commission for decision and all the parties will be heard on the issue of reserved seats.

Talking to reporters outside the commission, Ali Zafar said: “Eighty-six of our independent members joined the Sunni Ittehad Council. The election commission inducted 81 independent candidates into the SIC. Our petition came first, but the petitions against us were fixed for hearing first.”

SIC head Sahibzada Hamid Raza told the media that his party was an ally of the PTI and that they had filed the petition six days ago, while six appeals were filed against their petition overnight and today the number had also been allotted to them for hearing.

Separately, in a statement, PTI senior leader Barrister Gohar Ali Khan urged the election commission to allot the reserved seats to the Sunni Ittehad Council under the Constitution and law. “As many as 86 elected MNAs backed by the PTI joined the Sunni Ittehad Council as per law, 107 elected members of the Punjab Assembly, 90 of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, and nine of the Sindh Assembly also joined the Sunni Ittehad Council. It is the right of Sunni Ittehad Council to get reserved seats for women and minorities, which cannot be given to any other political party,” he contended.

He said despite all the apprehensions and reservations “we want the election commission to take care of the aspirations of the people and take a fair decision on this matter.”