In bombshell letter, SIC tells ECP it never filed list of women candidates

Mumtaz Alvi
Thursday, Feb 29, 2024

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Wednesday reserved its judgment in the petitions relating to allotment of reserved seats to the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) after hearing arguments from the parties.

A five-member commission headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja heard the petitions. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founding member and lawyer Hamid Khan, PTI’s Barrister Gohar Ali Khan, PTI women wing president Kanwal Shauzab, Pakistan Muslium League-Nawaz (PMLN) lawyer Azam Nazeer Tarar, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) lawyer Farooq H Naek, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQMP) lawyer Senator Farogh Naseem, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl’s Kamran Murtaza and SIC Chairman Sahibzada Hamid Raza were present on the occasion.

During the course of hearing, CEC Raja handed over a letter written to the ECP by the SIC to PTI lawyer Senator Barrister Ali Zafar and said they don’t want reserved seats and you are forcing it.

Starting the arguments, Barrister Ali Zafar said that on Tuesday, the ECP issued an order in which “you decided to take notice of all the parties. If the order is issued in the evening, how can the parties prepare and come in the morning? It will be a meaningless exercise.” The CEC clarified that the commission had only called the parties concerned.

Ali Zafar pointed out that “MQMP wanted seats but they did not talk about seats in the application. They should make a separate application so that I know what they want. The fact is that his application was fixed when other applications were filed.”

The CEC reminded that he [Ali Zafar] should know that three meetings were held on his request.

Barrister Ali Zafar said that the need for hearing comes when there was ambiguity in the mind. He said if there was no election symbol allotted to the PTI, then reserved seats would not be available. However, ECP officials said that if they join the party, seats will be there.

CEC Raja asked the counsel whether it was in the Supreme Court’s decision. Ali Zafar replied that it was not mentioned in the Supreme Court’s decision. The PTI lawyer explained that an extraordinary situation arose and the highest number of independent candidates won, independent candidates got a lot of seats in KP.

Barrister Ali Zafar said the objection was that the SIC did not give the list of reserved seats. When an extraordinary situation arises, it has to be interpreted; political party is the one which participates in elections.

ECP Member Ikramullah said that “the party you are referring to participated in the elections”. Ali Zafar said that if it was not a party, then why was its name and election symbol were on the ECP list? The KP Member questioned whether he wanted them to cancel the registration of the party. Zafar said that, of course, it could be done but for that, a process would have to be followed.

Barrister Ali Zafar took the stand that independent candidates were not banned from joining any party. The main purpose was to help form the government or become part of the opposition. There was nowhere in the Constitution which party one can or cannot join. “The first question was that the SIC is not elected; even if independent candidates join it, they will not get reserved seats. One of the petitioners is of the view that the political party must be a parliamentary party. The Constitution mentions political party and not the parliamentary party. There is a separate article regarding the difference between the parliamentary party and political party. According to Article 63, the political party is clear,” he argued.

Sindh ECP Member Nisar Durrani said, “You want to say that even if the political party is not a parliamentary one, if the members join, it will become parliamentary.” Barrister Ali Zafar said that a political party could become a parliamentary party when the assembly members were involved. He said the quota of the National Assembly is given in three days. The CEC said that there are three days to determine the quota of reserved seats.

Ali Zafar said, “So we applied in three days and you also accepted independent candidates as SIC. The third objection is that the priority list was not given”.

Ali Zafar said that Article 51 of the Constitution said that seats should be given according to the list. “I believe, Article 104 made the law, now they should see, now if independent candidates did not join any party, would the specific quota have been wasted? What amendments do you have to make to the law?” he asked.

He said, “According to the Constitution, the list would be seen from what is to be given. Apart from this, Article 104 does not say anything, you have to give the quota schedule as many times as you want. According to Section 4 of the Elections Act, you have the power to take a decision in such a situation, and you cannot even give these seats to any party.”

The Sindh ECP Member said that if all the independent candidates do not join any party then? Ali Zafar said that new scrutiny would be done by taking the list again. If the list was given of two (candidates), then you are getting a quota of six seats, then you would ask for the rest of the names. Moreover, there was an example of Balochistan Awami Party. “There was no list related to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa when they took seats, you gave them reserved seats.”

The CEC handed over the SIC letter to Ali Zafar and said that the Council head wrote the letter to the ECP on February 26 and said they don’t have a list of reserved seats since no one contested the election from the SIC platform.

Barrister Ali Zafar expressed ignorance about the letter and said that the SIC did not inform the PTI about any such letter.

PPPs senior lawyer Farooq H Naek started his arguments and said that no SIC member won the general seat, and the Council did not submit any priority list to the ECP. Under Section 104 of the Elections Act, the new list could not be submitted after the expiry of nomination papers date and existing list could be changed.

He also maintained that if a name was deleted from the current list for reserved seats, the political party could give more names. The ECP could not issue a directive to ask the SIC to seek a priority list at this time. According to the formula given in Article 51 of the Constitution, seats were allotted. “If the stipulated time passes, then the list cannot be given,” Naek added.

PMLN lawyer Azam Nazeer Tarar suid that the SIC did not participate in the general elections. The ECP wrote a letter to all political parties about the implementation of election rules, but the Council replied that their party did not field any candidates.

Tarar said, “The Section 104 clearly states that whoever is participating in the elections, under Section 104, must have a priority list for reserved seats. If a political party has been rejected by the people, then how can independent members go and ask for reserved seats.”

JUIF lawyer Senator Kamran Murtaza argued that one has to look at the Constitution, the Elections Act’s Section 104 and Rules 92. “You have to look at Clause 3 of Article 51 regarding the position of seats, the Sunni Ittehad Council did not give any list.”

The ECP bench reserved its verdict on the petition after hearing the arguments of parties.

Meanwhile, an ECP bench dismissed a petition filed by PMLN supremo Nawaz Sharif, saying the election Form 47 issued by the returning officer of NA-15 be declared not valid and election result of more than 125 polling stations from remote areas of Kala Dhaka and Torghar was not completed and counted due to inaccessible and connectivity issues.

The short order said, “For detailed reasons to be recorded separately, instant petition is dismissed with the remarks that the petitioner may resort to the election tribunal concerned, if so advised. Our earlier order, dated 11.2.2024 qua suspension of consolidation process, is hereby recalled. The returning officer is directed to complete the process of consolidation under the law as early as possible but not later than three days on receipt of the order.”