SIC failed to submit list of candidates for reserved seats: ECP

Election Commission reserves verdict on petitions n PTI’s Ali Zafar argues independent MNAs entitled to join any political party

ISLAMABAD  -  The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Wednesday reserved its verdict on the petitions regarding the allocation of reserved seats for non- Muslims and women to the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC). A five-member bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja resumed the hearing of the applications related to the reserved seats of the SIC.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Barrister Gohar Ali Khan, SIC Chairman Sahibzada Hamid Raza, SIC lawyer Barrister Ali Zafar, and PTI Women Wing President Kanwal Shauzab appeared before the electoral watchdog.

Barrister Ali Zafar argued, “As per the Constitution of Pakistan, independent members of the National Assembly are entitled to join any political party, without restriction to a parliamentary party. Denying reserved seats to the SIC could have significant implications on the Senate elections, as well as those for offices of prime minister, president, speaker, and deputy speaker, he added.

The CEC reminded that the SIC should have given a list of reserved seat candidates before the elections. He referred to a communication from the SIC to the PTI’s legal counsel, indicating that the party chose not to participate in the general elections, thereby relinquishing its entitlement to the reserved seats.

The ECP bench reminded PTI representatives that they were required to submit a list of candidates for reserved seats prior to the polls, a requirement which the SIC had failed to fulfill. The CEC said that the PTI lawyer had agreed in the Supreme Court that if their electoral symbol was taken away, they would not be allotted reserved seats. Barrister Ali Zafar said the PTI-supported independent candidates succeeded in large numbers for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and National Assemblies. The issue of reserved seats arose with 86 PTI-backed independent National Assembly members joining the SIC.

There were nine PTI-backed independent members in the Sindh Assembly, 107 in Punjab and 90 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he added. Farooq Naik, the lawyer representing the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), stated that the SIC had not submitted its priority list for reserved seats before the elections.

He emphasised the strictness of the law, prohibiting modification of the priority list after the nomination papers’ submission date. According to him, even name changes were restricted, with new names permitted only after the exhaustion of the submitted list. The SIC could not be allowed to provide a list now to secure reserved seats, he added. PML-N lawyer Azam Nazeer Tarar questioned that whether a party that did not participate in the election could claim reserved seats after the independent members joined it.

MQM-P lawyer Farogh Naseem argued that SIC did qualify as a parliamentary party under the law. He asserted that reserved seats should be allocated to MQM based on quota.

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