ECP reserves verdict on SIC pleas for reserved seats

News Desk
Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday reserved its verdict on the petitions filed by the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) — the party joined by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed independent candidates — seeking the allocation of reserved seats.

A five-member bench, chaired by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, conducted the hearing. The electoral body took up the pleas after President Alvi reportedly refused to sign a Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs summary seeking the convening of a National Assembly session.

President Alvi maintained that the remaining reserved seats should be allocated before summoning the NA session, which was supposed to be held within 21 days of the elections under the Constitution.

In the previous hearing, CEC Raja consolidated all the petitions filed by the SIC, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

MQM-P’s Farogh Naseem advocate, SIC’s Barrister Ali Zafar, PPP’s counsel Farooq H Naek and PML-N’s lawyer Azam Nazeer Tarar appeared before the bench.At the outset of the hearing, Barrister Zafar presented his arguments, saying 86 independents, who won the National Assembly seats, had joined SIC. “A political party has the right to form a government and contest the elections and SIC is a political party which is registered and has an electoral symbol,” said Zafar.

He said the SIC had the right to form a government if independent candidates join the party. At this, a member of the commission said the SIC did not contest the February 8 polls. Barrister Zafar then said the independents will play an important role in the presidential elections, adding it had been written in the Constitution who will get the reserved seat.

At this, the CEC assured the seats would be allocated as per the Constitution.Barrister Zafar said a party can include independent candidates and become a parliamentary party. At this, CEC Raja said they had a letter from the SIC which stated the party did not contest the polls and neither did they want the reserved seats. Barrister Zafar said the PTI did not know about the letter.

PPP’s Naek said the SIC had not submitted any priority list and the deadline had also passed away. Later, PML-N’s Tarar said a political party must win a few seats to claim reserved seats, however, the SIC did not contest polls. “A reserved seat can be nominated when it becomes vacant due to death, disqualification or resignation of a member,” he added. He said the reserved seats cannot be given to independents as per the law.

MQM-P’s lawyer Naseem said the SIC was not a parliamentary party, urging the ECP to give the reserved seats to his party as per quota. “The SIC head also contested the elections as an independent,” he said. After the completion of arguments, the ECP reserved the verdict.