SC to hear petitions for not allocating reserved seats to SIC today 

ISLAMABAD   -   A Full Court, headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa will Monday (today) resume hearing of Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government and Speaker KP Provincial Assembly’s petitions for not allocating women and minorities reserved seats to it in the National Assembly and provincial assemblies.

Previously, Faisal Siddiqui representing SIC contended that as the SIC did not contest the general elections therefore had not filed the list of candidates for reserved seats of women and minorities. On the other hand, PML-N, PPPP, PML-Q, MQM and other parties filed their lists before the Election Commission of Pakistan.

The Chief Justice questioned that whether there is distinction given in Article 63A of the constitution about the parliamentary party and the political party. Faisal Siddiqui, representing SIC, replied in positive. The CJP said a political party which has no seat in the National Assembly or a Provincial Assembly can’t be a parliamentary party, adding that if tomorrow PTI or SIC are at the loggerheads with each other over the seat of parliamentary party head in the Assembly then there could be a problem.

Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel questioned why the political party and the parliamentary party are different. He then explained that parliamentary party head can take the action against any member of its party if he does not follow the party policy and vote in budget.

Justice Munib Akhtar asked the SIC counsel to focus on the political party, as the parliamentary party are for the future once the reserved seats of women and minorities are allocated to it and the members take oath. “The focus of our discussion should be the political party,” he emphasized.

Justice Munib then said that independent candidate is the one who has not contested election on the party ticket and symbol. However, he observed that if a candidate mentions in his form, submitted before the ECP, that he belongs a certain political party then he would be not an independent member but member of that political party. They (candidates) never repudiated PTI therefore all those independent candidates who have won election are the PTI members.

The Chief Justice said those who contesting elections on February 8, could had said that they be given ‘bat’ as symbol. Justice Athar Minallah remarked that the ECP in its order got confused of Political Parties Order 2002 with the Election Act 2017. He said after the Supreme Court judgment on 13-01-2024 the election symbols were allotted to the candidate and due to the judgment they PTI backed candidates could not have ‘bat’ symbol.

Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar questioned whether the PTI has filed the list of reserved seats, and if they did then why not challenge this matter before the Election Commission. He said there was no need of declaration when the PTI backed candidates themselves in Form 33 stated that they do not belong to any party.

The Chief Justice said that why did they independently not demand ‘bat’ symbol. Faisal Siddiqui replied that if they had done that then it could have been the violation of Supreme Court judgment. Justice Jamal said if a symbol is not allotted to any party then the candidate who is contesting election independently could demand that symbol.

Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa made it clear that the Supreme Court will not go for ‘creative interpretation’ of Article 51 of the constitution. “I would say no to creative interpretation and whatever is written in Article 51 you act in accordance with that,” said the judge. 

He continued, “Don’t make us (Court) to write the constitution, as it is not our job. If there is no solution, then go to the Parliament.” He said that if these 77 independent candidates had not join the SIC then the PTI could get reserved seats of women and minorities.

Faisal Siddiqui, representing Sunni Ittehad Council (SC), argued that when there is no clear answer given in the constitution what to with the leftover seats then in such situation the Supreme Court can solve the problem by issuing a declaration.

Justice Munib Akhtar said that once the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has recognized the SIC as the political party then the proportional seats of women and minorities could be given to it. He highlighted a “cascading series of errors of law” committed by the ECP that “forced” PTI-backed candidates to take on the garb of independents.

“All of these returned candidates were PTI candidates forced by cascading series of errors of law by the ECP to take on the garb of independents,” Justice Akhtar observed. The matter of reserved seats boiled down to whether they were to be “denied those reserved seats simply because now they have taken shelter under” the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC).

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