In major blow, ECP rules against allocating reserved seats to PTI-backed SIC

In major blow, ECP rules against allocating reserved seats to PTI-backed SIC

Security personnel stand guard at the headquarters of the Election Commission of Pakistan in Islamabad on September 21, 2023. — AFP

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Monday ruled that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) is not eligible for the reserved seats allotted to women and minorities, serving a major blow to the already embattled party.

The commission’s five-member bench — headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja — announced the split decision with a 4-1 majority.

ECP Punjab member Hassan Bharwana dissented with the majority verdict, which was reserved on February 28.

In the verdict, the ECP said it extended the deadline to submit a priority list for the reserved seats of women, and the SIC, before the February 8 polls, did not submit the required list which was “mandatory”.

In the instant case, the ECP said the SIC cannot claim the quota/ share in the reserved seats for the women “due to non-curable procedural and legal defects and violations of mandatory provisions of the Constitution”.

The ECP verdict cited Article 51(6), saying the article clearly stated the reserved seats would be allocated to the political parties who contested elections and won general seats on the basis of “proportional representation system”.

It further stated that per centum share of each political party shall be worked out with reference to total number of general seats in the National Assembly and the provincial assembly.

“The same formula is provided for the reserved seats for non-Muslims.”

While rejecting the plea of SIC, the ECP accepted applications of the opponent parties and decided that the seats in the National Assembly will not remain vacant and will be allocated by proportional representation process of political parties on the basis of seats won by political parties.

“[The] Office is directed to calculate the quota accordingly,” read the verdict.

The ECP had reserved the verdict on the petitions filed by the SIC seeking the allocation of women and minority seats after PTI-backed winning candidates joined its ranks following the February 8 elections.

The PTI-backed independent candidates took the lead in the February 8 elections after they won the 92 National Assembly seats, followed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) (79) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) (54).

The reserved seats were awarded to all political parties as per their strength in the assemblies, except the PTI-backed SIC.

More to follow…

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