Home Latest News PHC Rejects PTI-Backed SIC Plea Seeking Reserved Seats

PHC Rejects PTI-Backed SIC Plea Seeking Reserved Seats

Unanimous verdict of five-member bench proves major blow for PTI, which had hoped to get the ECP ruling reversed

by Staff Report

File photo of Peshawar High Court

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Thursday dismissed a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) petition challenging an Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) ruling that had denied reserved seats for women and minorities to the party.

“Petitions are unanimously rejected,” the five-member bench announced in its short order, reserved earlier in the day after completion of all arguments. Led by PHC Chief Justice Mohammad Ibrahim Khan and comprising Justices Ijaz Anwar, Ishtiaq Ibrahim, Shakeel Ahmad and Arshad Ali, the bench had heard arguments from SIC lawyer Ali Zafar, who maintained the Constitution did not specify when a party has to submit to the ECP a list of names for reserved seats.

“It is not written anywhere that you cannot resubmit the list or when it has to be submitted,” he argued, adding there were no restrictions on submitting a revised list and the ECP could have issued a fresh schedule for the submission, as it did for general elections.

“As per law, those who participate in elections will get seats,” Justice Anwar remarked, with the bench then questioning whether any legal provision prevented the issuance of a second schedule. “The law does not prevent the Election Commission from issuing another schedule,” the lawyer responded.

Justice Arshad then noted that Section 104 allows the submission of an additional list after the submission of an initial one. “Section 104 says that if a political party participates in an election, it will give a list,” the lawyer argued, adding the law calls for all parties to get a share of reserved seats on the basis of the number of direct seats won. “Their seats cannot be increased,” he said, referring to the ECP’s decision to grant the seats denied to the SIC to other parties.

“If these seats are not given, Parliament will not be complete,” remarked the chief justice, with the lawyer urging the court to interpret the Constitution in a way that removed all confusion over its interpretation.

Zafar also argued for the admissibility of the petition, saying the pleas filed in Punjab and Sindh were limited to their respective provincial assemblies, but the one heard by PHC pertained to reserved seats of the province issued in the National and KP provincial assembly. Acknowledging the SIC had not initially submitted any list, he argued the Lahore High Court had denied there was no prohibition.

Concluding his arguments, Zafar had directed the court toward a declaration regarding the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), noting the party was given reserved seats later by the electoral authority.

Earlier this month, the ECP had accepted applications of the PTI-backed SIC’s rival parties, deciding reserved seats could not remain vacant and would be allocated by a proportional representation process of political parties on the basis of seats won by them. The PTI had challenged this in the provincial high courts, maintaining the SIC was denied its share.

A day earlier, arguing against the PTI’s plea, Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan had told the PHC that a political party could get reserved seats only if it won a general one, adding the SIC had not won even a single seat. ECP lawyer Sikander Basheer Momand had, similarly, supported this argument, stating the SIC was a political party, but not a parliamentary one and thus was not eligible for reserved seats.

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