The formation of Pakistan's upcoming government, expected to be finalized in the coming days or weeks, hinges on the numerous independent candidates who emerged victorious in the recently concluded general elections on February 8.
As per election regulations, independent candidates must align themselves with a political party of their choice within three days of the issuance of the gazette notification by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
The role of independents becomes pivotal when leading political parties seek additional lawmakers to secure a majority in the lower house, facilitating the formation of a government.
However, independent winners can only choose one party and are not eligible for a share in the reserved seats designated for women and religious minorities. Once they formally join a political party, in accordance with the law, reserved seats are allocated to them based on their numerical strengths.
The gazette notification for the newly elected members of the National Assembly must be issued within 14 days of the polling day. Subsequently, before the inaugural session of the National Assembly, the Election Commission will decide the distribution of 60 reserved seats for women and 10 reserved seats for minorities among the participating parties.
In adherence to the law, political parties receive reserved seats for women based on their performance in each province, as outlined in the Constitution and the law.
Section 104 of the Elections Act, 2017, specifies the process for political parties to submit lists of candidates for reserved seats for women and non-Muslims. These lists are subject to limited alterations, and parties may include additional names to account for disqualifications or fill vacant seats during the assembly term.
The distribution of reserved seats for women is determined by a formula based on the number of general seats won by each party in a specific province. For instance, Balochistan, with 16 general seats in the National Assembly, has four reserved seats for women. Punjab, with 144 general seats, allocates 32 seats for women based on a formula resulting in 4.5 members per seat.
Similarly, Sindh, with 14 reserved seats for women, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with 10 such seats, follow similar formulas based on their respective total seats in the National Assembly.
Apart from the gazette notification and reserved seats for women, the allocation of 10 reserved seats for minorities in political parties is determined based on the total National Assembly seats.