ISLAMABAD: The Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), which is now home to the PTI-backed independent candidates who won the general election, might get its share of reserved seats in the national and provincial assemblies due to past precedent set by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), a senior official has told Dawn.

Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja will chair a crucial ECP meeting today (Monday) to decide on the reserved seats’ quota.

The matter has become of crucial importance since it is being reported as the “bone of contention” over which President Arif Alvi has delayed requisitioning the National Assembly session.

A senior ECP official told Dawn that the council is “set to get its share of reserved seats” in light of a precedent where candidates for the reserved seats were declared successful on submission of lists submitted after ECP’s deadline had elapsed.

After getting 23 reserved seats for women and minorities, the number of SIC members in the National Assembly will swell to 104.

The ECP has so far withheld the allocation of 78 out of the total 226 reserved seats for women in the national and provincial assemblies. These seats will go to SIC after ECP’s decision.

A few PTI-backed independents have still not joined the party to contest their intra-party elections.

Past precedent

The ECP official told Dawn that the commission is aware of the 21-day deadline to call the NA session after the general elections.

He added that the timeline will not elapse, as all assemblies are to hold inaugural sessions on or before February 29, as per the law.

The commission’s law wing will brief the meeting over the question of reserved seats, the official said, adding that even if no decision is reached today, a meeting will be held on Tuesday to finally decide the matter.

“I do not see a problem,” the official said when asked about the allocation of reserved seats to SIC.

He referred to a Lahore High Court judgement in 2018 as precedent in this case. The court held that the reserved seat quota of a party was non-transferable.

The question was raised after PTI failed to submit the list for minorities’ reserved seats in Punjab and did so after LHC’s hearing.

The case had gone to court after the returning officer refused to accept PTI’s lists of candidates for women and minorities’ seats due to a one-day delay in submission of the candidates’ names.

There is also a precedent of Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) getting a reserved seat for women in KP Assembly after the first post-merger elections in the erstwhile Fata.

The party didn’t contest the election in the province, but independents joined it, handing BAP a reserved seat for women.

Out of the total 60 reserved seats for women in the National Assembly, ECP has so far allocated 40 to different political parties.

These include 20 out of 32 of Punjab, two out of 10 of KP, all 14 of Sindh and all four of Balochistan.

Seven out of ten seats reserved for minorities have also been allocated.

In the Sindh Assembly, 27 out of 29 seats reserved for women and eight out of nine for minorities have been allocated.

Five out of 26 reserved seats for women and one out of four for minorities have been allocated in the KP assembly. In the Balochistan Assembly, all 11 reserved seats for women and three for minorities have been allocated.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2024

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