• PPP, PML-N, MQM-P challenge allocation of seats to PTI-SIC alliance, argue it is not a ‘parliamentary party’
• ECP takes up parties’ challenges before original SIC plea, proceedings to continue today
• PTI’s Gohar says assembly sessions without allocation of seats will be ‘illegal’

ISLAMABAD: With only one day left before the first session of the National Assembly is convened, the Election Com­m­ission of Pakistan (ECP) has yet to clear the air over the allocation of reserved seats to the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), following a PTI-SIC ‘merger’ for this very purpose.

The issue became further complicated on Tues­day after at least three political parties, the PPP, PML-N, and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakis­tan (MQM-P), approached the commission to lay claim to the seats dem­a­nded by SIC in parliament.

During a hearing on a set of petitions filed against the proposed allocation of seats to the SIC as demanded by the PTI, it emerged that the PML-N, PPP, and the MQM-P opposed the distribution of the remaining reserved seats to the SIC, saying it could not be called a parliamentary party.

Similarly, they argued that the SIC failed to submit a list of candidates for the reserved seats in time, like other political parties.

Interestingly, a five-member bench headed by Chief Election Commi­ssioner Sikandar Sultan Raja did not take up the SIC’s plea, filed last week, seeking the allocation of reserved seats.

The bench, however, took up the petitions filed against the SIC application — two of these applications were added to the cause list on Monday night. The SIC application has been clubbed together with the other parties’ pleas and the ECP will take these up today (Wednesday).

Rival claims

At the outset of the hearing, PTI’s Barrister Ali Zafar wondered who were the applicants and why they were attending the hearing. He said that the SIC and PTI-backed independents had approached the ECP to claim their reserved seats and if the political parties wanted to take these seats away, then they should openly say so.

The MQM-P, PPP and the PML-N should come forward as political parties and claim the seats, he said. An ECP member res­ponded that MQM leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui had appeared before the Election Commission and said that the seats not be given to the SIC.

PPP leader Farooq H. Naek also interrupted and said he was representing a political party as well. He said it was the commission’s prerogative to decide who should be given the reser­ved seats and argued that it should be established first whether the SIC qualified for these seats or not.

PML-N’s Azam Nazeer

Tarar argued that the SIC had no right to claim the reserved seats as “the SIC did not provide its list of candidates for reserved seats in time”. According to the PML-N leader, if the SIC did not win a single seat in the general elections, then how can it be given reserved seats after being joined by some independents?

The PML-N lawyer claimed the SIC was not a parliamentary party and, therefore, it could not be given reserved seats. At this, CEC Raja asked him to leave that matter to the ECP to decide.

The ECP also issued notices to the Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI-F, Aleem Khan of the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party, Pir Sibghatullah Shah of the Grand Democratic Alliance, and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain of PML-Q after it was proposed that all parliamentary parties should be heard.

‘No SIC seats’

Later, talking to reporters outside the ECP building, Azam Nazeer Tarar lambasted the SIC for expecting reserved seats in the National Assembly, calling it an illogical stance.

“This is a party that did not even contest elections, didn’t win a single seat, and they are saying they have the right to reserved seats because a bunch of independent candidates joined them,” he said.

PTI leader Barrister Gohar Ali, on the other hand, said that an assembly session could not be called without first notifying the reserved seats.

“The Punjab Assembly session was called in an illegal manner. The Sindh Assembly session was carried out in an illegal manner. If the National Assembly session is called that will also be illegal because the assemblies should be convened after all the members of the House are notified,” he made it clear.

He urged the ECP to notify the reserved seats for the Sunni Ittehad Council. He said that the people have given their mandate, and expressed hopes that the ECP would listen to “what the people voted for on Feb 8”. “These reserved seats belong to SIC, no other political party can lay claim to them,” Barrister Gohar added.

Ikram Junaidi in Islamabad also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

Tough talks
Updated 16 Apr, 2024

Tough talks

The key to unlocking fresh IMF funds lies in convincing the lender that Pakistan is now ready to undertake real reforms.
Caught unawares
Updated 16 Apr, 2024

Caught unawares

The government must prioritise the upgrading of infrastructure to withstand extreme weather.
Going off track
16 Apr, 2024

Going off track

LIKE many other state-owned enterprises in the country, Pakistan Railways is unable to deliver, while haemorrhaging...
Iran’s counterstrike
Updated 15 Apr, 2024

Iran’s counterstrike

Israel, by attacking Iran’s diplomatic facilities and violating Syrian airspace, is largely responsible for this dangerous situation.
Opposition alliance
15 Apr, 2024

Opposition alliance

AFTER the customary Ramazan interlude, political activity has resumed as usual. A ‘grand’ opposition alliance ...
On the margins
15 Apr, 2024

On the margins

IT appears that we are bent upon taking the majoritarian path. Thus, the promise of respect and equality for the...