Home Latest News ECP Decides against Allocating Reserved Seats to PTI-Backed SIC

ECP Decides against Allocating Reserved Seats to PTI-Backed SIC

PTI announces it will challenge decision in court, demands postponement of presidential, Senate elections until final verdict

by Staff Report

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The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday ruled that the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), supported by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), is ineligible for reserved seats allotted to women and minorities, adding these will instead be distributed to other parties.

In a split 4-1 verdict, a five-member bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja ruled that the pending 77 reserved seats nationwide would now be allotted to other political parties. Reserved on Feb. 28, the majority verdict was dissented by ECP Punjab member Hassan Bharwana, who wrote that he agreed with the decision not to allot the seats but differed with the majority view to grant them to other parties.

The majority verdict notes that the ECP extended the deadline to submit a priority list for reserved seats of women, adding the SIC had failed to submit the “mandatory” list before the Feb. 8 polls. It said the SIC’s decision left it ineligible to claim any share in the reserved seats for the women “due to non-curable procedural and legal defects and violations of mandatory provisions of the Constitution.”

Citing Article 51(6), the ruling said the Constitution was clear that reserved seats are allocated to political parties who contest elections and win general seats based on a “proportional representation system.” It said the distribution of the pending reserved seats would be devised on the basis of the percentage share of each political party in Parliament.

According to the order, despite being a registered political party, the SIC did not participate in the general election; the only member of the SIC that won the polls was Hamid Raza, who contested polls as an independent candidate. It also referred to the argument advanced by the SIC counsel who cited the example of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) regarding the allocation of reserved seats in the KP Assembly in 2019, saying the counsel failed to provide any document in support of his arguments.

It further referred to a Supreme Court judgment, which stressed that the “negative language used in a statute where it reposes a statutory duty on a public official means that the provision was mandatory even if no penalty is prescribed for it.”

The ECP ruling also accepted applications filed by the SIC’s opposing parties, ruling the seats in the National Assembly would not remain vacant and be allocated by a proportional representation process of political parties on the basis of seats won by political parties. “[The] Office is directed to calculate the quota accordingly,” it added.

In total, the SIC has lost 23 seats in the National Assembly (20 women; 3 minorities); 25 in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly (21 women; 4 minorities); 2 women’s seats in the Sindh Assembly; and 27 seats in the Punjab Assembly (24 women; 3 minorities).

In his dissenting note, the ECP Punjab member wrote that he partially agreed with the majority verdict that the reserved seats could not be allocated to the SIC, as a 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,” he said. “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.”

As such, he said, these seats would remain vacant until such time any such amendment in Articles 51 and 106 of the Constitution is made by Parliament.

PTI to appeal verdict

In a press conference after the verdict was issued, PTI leader Shoaib Shaheen said the party would challenge the ruling in court. “Neither the ECP’s intention is clean nor its decision,” he claimed, adding the party hoped that it would get justice from the high court. He said the PTI also reserved the right to approach the Supreme Court if it did not get relief from the high court.

PTI Senator Ali Zafar, addressing the Senate, similarly criticized the ECP decision. He said the National Assembly consists of 336 seats comprising reserved seats for women, minorities, and general seats. These seats, he noted, were critical to electing the president, senators, deputy speaker and speaker, as well as the chief ministers of their respective assemblies.

“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 argued, calling for the upcoming polls to be postponed until the Houses were complete. “This is a very clear point that we raised when we went to the ECP with the petition on behalf of the SIC,” he said. “Article 51 (6)(d) states that a party would be provided seats proportionally to the seats that they have won in the election. If an independent also joins the party after the polls, they will be considered as members of that party,” he added.

He also demanded the resignation of the ECP chief and its members.

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