KARACHI: As the federal government on Thursday formally announced banning the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a parliamentary challenge emerged in Sindh where the party’s three leaders are members of the provincial assembly (MPA) and one is poised to contest the upcoming NA-249 by-election, leaving both the government and the electoral officials in a quandary about the procedure ahead.
The Sindh Assembly and the Election Commission have preferred to wait for the next administrative and procedural measure from the government for formally banning the religious organisation.
“Things need to get clearer,” said Adviser to the Sindh Chief Minister and provincial government spokesman Barrister Murtaza Wahab. “The federal government, we hope, would further clarify and expedite the process. The provincial government has no role in such a situation. It’s the responsibility of the federal government to clarify the situation. I would refer to Sections 212 and 213 of the Election Act that explain the position if any such situation arises.”
Titled the ‘Dissolution of a political party’, Section 212 of the Election Act 2017 says: “(1) where the Federal Government is satisfied on the basis of a reference from the Commission or information received from any other source that a political party is a foreign-aided political party or has been formed or is operating in a manner prejudicial to the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan or is indulging in terrorism, the Government shall, by a notification in the official Gazette, make such declaration. (2) Within fifteen days of making a declaration under sub-section (1), the Government shall refer the matter to the Supreme Court. (3) where the Supreme Court upholds the declaration made against the political party under sub-section (1), such political party shall stand dissolved forthwith.”
The TLP made its way to the Sindh Assembly from Karachi in the 2018 general election when its two candidates, Mohammad Qasim and Mohammad Younus Soomro, won their seats from the PS-115 and PS-107 constituencies, respectively, while Sarwat Fatima from the party became an MPA on one of the reserved seats for women.
‘It’s the federal government’s responsibility to clarify the situation’
Amid the deadly clashes between activists of the TLP and police with the loss of more than half a dozen lives in two days, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid on Wednesday announced the decision to ban the party on the Punjab government’s recommendation under the anti-terrorism law.
Finally, on Thursday, the federal government formally banned the TLP, whose supporters staged three days of violent protests across the country this week after the arrest of their leader. A notification declaring the TLP as a proscribed organisation was issued by the ministry of interior shortly after the federal cabinet approved a summary to ban the party.
The Election Commission of Pakistan, meanwhile, waits for the process to be completed before reaching any conclusion about the fate of the TLP legislators.
“After the process of banning any organisation, there are certain procedures which need to be followed,” said an Election Commission official. “Once the TLP is formally banned as a terrorist organisation, its MPAs would have a choice to announce their [dissociation] with the party and retain their seats in the Sindh Assembly in independent status. Otherwise, they would be disqualified and de-seated which would lead to by-elections on their vacant seats.”
For the upcoming election in NA-249, where TLP’s Mufti Nazeer Kamalvi is among several other candidates in the constituency, he said the electoral laws here also showed some flexibility which “hopefully” would not delay the polls.
“In case of formal banning of the organisation, the TLP candidate would be asked to contest as an independent candidate. If he agrees, then we would allocate him a new symbol and revise our Form-33 with his new electoral symbol on the balloting papers,” he added.
Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2021