ECP reserves verdict on pleas opposing seats for SIC

ECP reserves verdict on pleas opposing seats for SIC


ECP clubs all applications against the SIC

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ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) - The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday reserved decision after the arguments of the parties were completed on the allotment of reserved seats to the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC). 

The PTI-backed independents joined the SIC as enunciated in the constitution and sought reserved seats for women and minorities. 

A five-member commission, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, heard six petitions against the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) in the Election Commission on Tuesday and adjourned the case until Wednesday.  

The ECP clubbed all applications against the SIC.

It may be recalled that on Tuesday, three political parties, the PPP, the PML-N, and the MQM-P, approached the ECP to lay claim to the seats demanded by the SIC in parliament. 

The three parties opposed the distribution of the remaining reserved seats to the SIC, claiming it could not be called a parliamentary party. 

They argued that the SIC failed to submit a list of candidates for the reserved seats in time, like other political parties. 

Wednesday's proceedings 

Member Nisar Durrani asked Barrister Zafar if candidates join a political party, will it become a parliamentary party. He replied in the affirmative.

He argued that after the independent candidates joined the SIC, it's eligible for allotment of reserved seats. 

He said the relevant law mentioned political party and not parliamentary party. 

Commission’s member from Punjab, Babar Bharwana, asked him who would issue the list of candidates for reserved seats, the parliamentary party or the party head? Barrister Zafar said the list would be given by the party chief. 

He argued that according to Clause 4 of the Election Act, the commission had the authority to take a decision in such a situation. However, the commission cannot give these seats to any party that has already got them.

The member from Sindh said what will happen if the independent candidates do not join any party. Zafar replied that in this case scrutiny would be done again.

He gave reference of the Balochistan Awami Party and said the party did not have a list related to KP. But when they won seats, they were allotted reserved seats.

As Barrister Zafar concluded his arguements, the CEC told him that the SIC had written him a letter on Feb 26 mentioning that it did not contest general elections, it was not eligible for allotment of reserved seats. Barrister Zafar expressed his ignorance regarding any letter. 

At the outset of the hearing, PTI’s Barrister Ali Zafar wondered about the inclusion of [three] parties in the issue. He said that the SIC and PTI-backed independents had approached the ECP to claim reserved seats and if the [three] political parties wanted to take these seats, they should openly claim them.

An ECP member responded that MQM leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui had appeared before the commission and requested it that the SIC should not be given the seats.

PPP leader Farooq H. Naek interrupted and said he was representing a political party as well. He said it was the commission’s prerogative to decide who should be given the reserved seats and argued that it should be established first whether the SIC qualified for these seats or not. 

Barrister Zafar resumed his arguments and said that 86 independent members of the National Assembly joined the SIC. Similarly, nine from Sindh, 107 MPs from the Punjab and 90 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa joined the SIC.

He said that the Supreme Court expressed apprehension that if there was no electoral symbol, reserved seats would not be allotted. However, the ECP officials said that they would get seats if they join a party, he added.

The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) asked him whether it was the decision of the Supreme Court. Barrister Zafar replied in the negative.

The CEC told him that your lawyer had also said that if there was no electoral symbol, then the reserved seats would not be allotted.

Barrister Zafar said that independent candidates had won too many seats in KP. They raised the objection that the SIC failed to win a seat in any assembly.

On it, commission member Ikramullah said that they raised an objection that you are not a parliamentary party. Barrister Zafar replied that this is not their objection. Their objection is that the independents have not joined the SIC in three days, he continued.

Ikramullah said that the constitution provides that independents can join a party within three days, but it did not mention about the quota of reserved seats.

Barrister Zafar told him that Section 200 of the Election Act mentioned about the political party providing that a political party must be registered. Ikramullah replied that Article 201 states that a political party is the one that participates in elections.

Barrister Zafar told him that if you think the SIC is not a political party, why it was registered? Ikramullah said do you want us to take notice and delist the SIC. Barrister Zafar said it was your discretionary power, but a procedure has been laid down for it. 

Tuesday's hearing 

Azam Nazir Tarar, Atta Tarar and others appeared on behalf of the PML-N petitioner whereas Barrister Gohar, Ali Zafar and Babar Awan appeared on behalf of the PTI. Farooq H. Naik and Farogh Naseem appeared on behalf of the MQM-P. 

During the hearing, Barrister Gohar took the stance that they submitted declarations of 86 people but the Election Commission included 81 in the SIC. 

Barrister Ali Zafar said they wanted to get their reserved seats, and if other political parties were also interested to get the seats, they should say it openly. The MQM, the PML-N and the PPP should submit claims for the reserved seats to the ECP. 

Member Election Commission said Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui had requested the ECP that these seats should not be given to the SIC. The PTI-backed lawyers objected to the petitions of the political parties. 

Azam Nazir Tarar said the ECP should listen to all political parties who won seats in the national and provincial assemblies. "This is a constitutional and legal question which needs to be clarified," he said.

Ali Zafar said no one had the right to snatch his seat. He said his application for reserved seats was also there.

Barrister Gohar said, "Our application for reserved seats should also be fixed for hearing." 

The CEC said the ECP had fixed applications for hearing. Azam Nazir Tarar said the SIC could not win even a single seat, how could a specific seat be given to some independent members in this party? 

"They have joined a party that was rejected by the people, they did not submit an application for reserved seats first, the Sunni Ittehad Council is not a parliamentary party, how can they be given reserved seats? said Tarar.

The CEC asked them to leave the matter to the Election Commission for decision.

Ali Zafar said, "We have not received the copy of the petitions, you give me the copy, I will submit the answer today." Farooq H. Naik requested that the ECP should call and listen to all the parties.

Barrister Gohar said that they did not win a seat in Lahore and are asking for our seat, Azam Nazir Tarar replied to Barrister Gohar that you keep these things outside for the cameras.

The CEC said that Commission was fixing his request for hearing on Wednesday. The Commission directed to provide copies of all petitions to the SIC.

The CEC made it clear that the Commission will issue an order later today on the objections of the SIC. The Commission then postponed the hearing of the case till tomorrow.

Earlier on Monday, the ECP had decided to hear the matter of allocation of reserved seats to the SIC in the open court.

According to sources, an important meeting of the Commission was held on the issue of reserved seats of the SIC. A notice was issued to the head of the SIC. The ECP's full bench had to hear the issue of such seats on Tuesday.

The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) has once again demanded resignation of CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja who, it alleged, failed to conduct free and fair polls.