KARACHI: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday asked the Sindh High Court to dismiss the petitions against the delimitation of three National Assembly and eight Sindh Assembly constituencies in Karachi, arguing that the exercise carried out on the Supreme Court directions could not be questioned at this stage.
A division bench headed by Justice Maqbool Baqar put off the hearing of two identical petitions to April 2.
The bench was seized with the constitutional petitions of leaders of the PPP and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement against the delimitation of the constituencies.
Abdul Jabbar Jamali, a joint provincial election commissioner, on behalf of the ECP filed a reply.
He stated that pursuant to the apex court order, the ECP held a meeting on March 7 and constituted a committee that held meetings on March 9, 10 and 11 and submitted its proposal regarding delimitation of the constituencies.
He said the committee’s proposal was placed before the ECP and the delimitation of certain constituencies were also explained to the commission with the help of maps on March 18.
The official said the commission approved the proposal and issued the notification on March 22.
He submitted that the schedule for the forthcoming general elections was issued on March 22, further clarifying that the process of elections started with the issuance of the schedule and not with the completion of the term of the assemblies or their dissolution.
”Any change in the delimitation of constituencies at this stage is unjustified as it would disturb the whole election process. Even otherwise, it is submitted that ECP has done delimitation of Karachi at the insistence of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Therefore, it is submitted that the ECP has acted in accordance with law and delimitation cannot be questioned in law or fact at this stage.”
The bench directed the federal law officer to file comments on the petitions filed by the PPP and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) against the delimitation of three national and eight provincial assembly constituencies in Karachi.
Petitioner Abdul Qadir Patel, who is also the PPP’s city president, submitted that the ECP had issued a notification for delimitation of three NA constituencies, including NA-239 Karachi West-II.
He stated that he had won the NA-239 in the 2008 general elections and he was dissatisfied with the impugned notification.
The MQM filed the constitutional petition through its leader Farooq Sattar, who impleaded the secretary of the federal statistics division, chief statistician, provincial census commissioner and the ECP as respondents.
The petitioner, represented by Barrister Farogh Naseem, asked the court to declare the ECP notification for delimitation of the constituencies as illegal and suspend its operation.
The ECP issued a notification on March 22 announcing delimitation of three National Assembly constituencies (NA- 239, 250 and 254) and eight Sindh Assembly constituencies (PS- 89, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 118 and 124) in Karachi.
The same bench issued notices to the federal and provincial law secretaries, speaker and deputy speakers of the provincial assembly of Sindh and others in a petition of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) against the caretaker set-up in the province.
The bench also issued notices to the attorney general and advocate general for Sindh and put off the hearing to April 9.
Petitioners Jam Madad Ali and Nusrat Bano Seher Abbasi submitted that the MQM had remained a coalition partner of the previous government for well over four years. In view of the fact, they added, the provincial assembly speaker’s appointment of the leader of opposition from the MQM was unconstitutional.
They submitted that their party had unanimously nominated Ms Abbasi for opposition leader in the provincial assembly and moved an application to the provincial assembly speaker for her appointment.
However, they added, for a considerable time a decision on the application remained pending.
The petitioners stated that the PML-F approached the SHC for the appointment of the opposition leader in the provincial assembly and the court ordered the speaker to appoint opposition leader within 10 days.
They said their party again filed a contempt application against the speaker of the provincial assembly for delaying opposition leader’s appointment.
The petitioners stated that the MQM and the PPP in order to facilitate the caretaker set-up of their own choice conspired and the MQM parted ways with the government.
They submitted that the MQM was allotted opposition benches and opposition leader was nominated in the provincial assembly from the MQM.
The petitioners stated that the governor and the opposition leader in the provincial assembly belonged to the same party and added that as per law, governor and opposition leader of the same party could not install a caretaker set-up.
They asked the court to declare the current caretaker set-up in the province as against the relevant laws.