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The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday suspended the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) decision to remove Farooq Sattar as the convener of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P).

Justice Amir Farooq reinstated Sattar as the party's chief until the court decides the petition filed by Sattar against the ECP decision.

Advocate Babar Sattar, who represented the MQM leader in court, argued that ECP does not have the jurisdiction to interfere in a political party's internal matters. He said that since MQM-P is registered under Farooq's name, the ECP does not have the authority to hear cases by another person who claims to be party convener.

He, however, conceded to hold intra-party elections again if the ECP so orders.

IHC has issued notices to the ECP, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and Kanwar Naveed Jameel — leaders of MQM-P Bahadurabad, a rival faction of the Sattar-led PIB group — and has ordered them to submit their response by April 11.

The ECP on Monday had removed Farooq from the position of MQM-P convener by accepting the challenge to his election and rejected his plea that the ECP had no jurisdiction to adjudicate upon internal matters of the party.

A five-member bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza, had annulled the intra-party elections of the MQM-P held under Dr Farooq’s leadership that he claimed to have won with a huge margin.

The petitions assailing his position had been filed by Siddiqui and Jameel.

Farooq had challenged ECP's decision in the IHC on Wednesday. The court had admitted the petition for a hearing today to determine maintainability of the case.

Rifts in the party

Rifts in the MQM-P had emerged on Feb 5 over the distribution of party tickets to candidates for the March 3 Senate elections. The party split into two groups — one led by Farooq and the other by senior leader Amir Khan — and both sides took extreme actions against each other.

The Bahadurabad group ousted Farooq from the post of convener with a two-thirds majority and in a tit-for-tat reaction Farooq held a workers’ convention the same day, dissolved the coordination committee and announced intra-party elections. On Feb 18, Farooq was elected the party convener after securing over 9,000 votes in the intra-party elections.