Presidential order on Senate election for Fata seats withdrawn

Published March 13, 2015
Acting president Ayaz Sadiq withdrew the controversial order that caused postponement of Senate elections for Fata.—Online/File
Acting president Ayaz Sadiq withdrew the controversial order that caused postponement of Senate elections for Fata.—Online/File

ISLAMABAD: During his half-day charge as acting president on Thursday, National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq withdrew a controversial presidential order that had caused postponement of Senate elections for four seats from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

“The summary regarding withdrawal of the order was sent from the presidency and sent back after signing within hours,” sources said.

As a result of strong opposition by Fata legislators to the order promulgated by President Mamnoon Hussain hours before the Senate polls on March 5, the Election Commission of Pakistan had cancelled the elections for the four seats.

Take a look: Faced with failure in Fata, PML-N spoilt Senate race?

Now it is expected that after withdrawal of the order by the acting president the ECP will soon announce the next date of elections for Senators from the tribal areas. Fata has eight seats in the Senate and the elections will be held to fill the seats that fell vacant on March 11 after the end of the six-year term of four senators.

However, the result will not affect the election of PPP leader Raza Rabbani and JUI-F’s Abdul Ghafoor Haideri as Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the house.

The speaker became acting president as President Hussain was on a four-day visit to Azerbaijan and there was no chairman of the upper house of parliament till Thursday evening to hold the office. Former chairman Nayyar Hussain Bokhari retired on Wednesday on completion of his term and Senator Rabbani was elected in the evening.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had announced a couple of days ago that the controversial order would be withdrawn soon so that elections for the Fata seats could take place.

With the withdrawal of the new order, the Statutory Regulatory Order of July 7, 1975 as well as a 2002 executive order — issued by former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf — which gave each tribal senator as many votes as the number of vacant seats became valid again.

Under the restored procedure, 12 MNAs from Fata used to elect senators by making four choices, which were marked in order of preference on the ballot paper. Under the controversial order, it was not clear if the MNAs would vote once for one person or in order of preference. Nothing was explained as to how their votes would be divided to elect four senators as 11 MNAs from Fata were to elect four senators.

Though Article 59(1-b) of the Constitution empowers the president to prescribe the manner to elect the eight senators from Fata, the timing of the decision and the apparent flaws in the order took many by surprise. It was issued less than 12 hours before the poling was to begin.

The order had practically limited the scope of the election to four seats, which were opened to candidates from South and North Waziristan, Kurram and Khyber tribal agencies.

This was done by turning the eight agencies into eight Senate constituencies -- South Waziristan, North Waziristan, Kurram, Khyber, Orakzai, Mohmand, Bajaur and Frontier Regions

Since the four sitting senators, due to retire in 2018, are from Mohmand, Bajaur and Orakzai agencies and Tank FR, the order said the race was restricted to candidates from South and North Waziristan, Kurram and Khyber agencies. This means that if any candidate in the race was from Mohmand, Bajuar, Orakzai or Tank, he stood disqualified.

Thirty-six candidates from across Fata were in the run and the last-minute change in the criterion meant that many of them were out of the race, despite the fact that their nomination papers had been accepted.

This, however, was not the only confusion. How the voting would take place was also unclear.

The order was challenged by the MNAs from Fata in the Islamabad High Court.

Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khurhseed Shah refused to accept the order and said it had been issued in the “darkness of the night”. He termed the move tantamount to horse trading and a violation of the Constitution.

When contacted, an MNA from Fata, Sajid Hussain Turi, told Dawn that a delegation of members of the National Assembly from the region met the speaker on Thursday and were informed that Mr Sadiq, being acting president, had signed the summary regarding withdrawal of the order.

“The NA speaker signed the summary and it is expected that the Election Commission will be informed about it on Friday,” he said.

He was of the view that the commission would announce the date for the elections on Monday.

Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2015

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