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SIC not eligible for women, minorities reserved seats, rules ECP

News Desk
Tuesday, Mar 05, 2024

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday ruled that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) was not eligible for the reserved seats allotted to women and minorities.

The electoral body’s five-member bench — headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja — announced the split decision with a 4-1 majority. ECP Punjab member Hassan Bharwana dissented with the majority verdict, which was reserved on February 28.

In the verdict, the ECP said it extended the deadline to submit a priority list for the reserved seats of women, and the SIC, before the February 8 polls, did not submit the required list which was “mandatory”. In the instant case, the ECP said the SIC cannot claim the quota/share in the reserved seats for the women “due to non-curable procedural and legal defects and violations of mandatory provisions of the Constitution”.

The ECP verdict cited Article 51(6), saying the article clearly stated the reserved seats would be allocated to the political parties who contested elections and won general seats on the basis of “proportional representation system”.

It further stated that per centum share of each political party shall be worked out with reference to total number of general seats in the National Assembly and the provincial assembly. “The same formula is provided for the reserved seats for non-Muslims.”

While rejecting the plea of SIC, the ECP accepted applications of the opponent parties and decided that the seats in the National Assembly will not remain vacant and will be allocated by proportional representation process of political parties on the basis of seats won by political parties. “[The] Office is directed to calculate the quota accordingly,” read the verdict.

The ECP had reserved the verdict on the petitions filed by the SIC seeking the allocation of women and minority seats after PTI-backed winning candidates joined its ranks following the February 8 elections.

The PTI-backed independent candidates took the lead in the February 8 elections after they won the 92 National Assembly seats, followed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) (79) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) (54). The reserved seats were awarded to all political parties as per their strength in the assemblies, except the PTI-backed SIC.

In the dissenting note, ECP Punjab chapter member Bharwana said he partially agrees with the majority verdict that the reserved seats cannot be allocated to SIC, as priority list was not submitted in time.

“However, I have dissenting views with regard to allocation of seats by way of Proportional representation to the other Political Parties. In my opinion Article 51(6-d), and Article 106(3-c) of the Constitution clearly states that reserved seats will be allocated to the Political Parties on the basis of total number of General Seats secured by each Political Party from the Province concerned in the National Assembly or such reserved seats secured by each Political Party in the Provincial Assembly.”

The ECP member maintained that these seats will remain vacant till the time any such amendment in Article 51 and 106 of the Constitution is made by the Parliament.

Meanwhile, speaking to the media PTI leader Shoaib Shaheen said his party will challenge the ECP’s verdict in the court. “Neither the ECP’s intention is clean nor its decision,” he said adding that the party hoped that it would get justice from the high court. However, Shaheen said the PTI also reserved the right to approach the Supreme Court if it did not get relief from the high court.

Similarly, PTI Senator Ali Zafar also criticised the ECP’s decision, saying the National Assembly consists of 336 seats — including reserved seats for women, minorities, and general seats.

Addressing the Senate session, the PTI senator said the lawmakers have to elect the president, senators, deputy speaker and speaker, and chief ministers of their respective Houses. “Unless these assemblies are completed, elections cannot be held for these constitutional positions. The upcoming elections include the president’s and Senate. However, an incomplete house cannot vote for the president,” he maintained.

Similarly, the PTI senator said if the provincial assemblies are incomplete, then the polls for senators cannot be held. “This is a very clear point that we raised when we went to the ECP with the petition on behalf of the SIC.”