ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is likely to announce its reserved verdict on the plea of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) — the new face of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) — for allocation of reserved seats, only after the prime ministerial election on Sunday, official sources told Dawn.

A senior ECP official said the decision would be announced next week, most probably on Monday.

The key election to the coveted office by an incomplete assembly is set to spark a new controversy as questions will be raised over the legality of the entire process.

The SIC was joined by PTI-backed lawmakers after winning elections sans their poll symbol, and the council had written to the ECP seeking allocation of reserved seats in the national as well as three provincial assemblies, excluding Balochistan.

PTI warns PM’s election by an incomplete NA will be ‘unconstitutional’

The ECP, however, did not consider the plea till applications piled up opposing the allocation of SIC’s quota on the grounds that it was not a parliamentary party and had not submitted a priority list of candidates for the reserved seats. The applications against allocation of reserved seats to SIC were heard for two days before SIC’s applications were clubbed with the lately filed but sooner heard petitions opposing its quota, and notices were issued to some other parliamentary parties.

After hearing arguments from all sides, the commission had reserved its verdict on Wednesday, a day before the maiden session of the National Assembly, allowing the controversy to simmer. Subsequently, the ECP caught flak for delaying the decision as it paved way for an incomplete assembly to meet.

Article 51 (1) of the Constitution reads, “There shall be three hundred and thirty-six seats for members in the National Assembly, including seats reserved for women and non-Muslims”.

Article 51(6) (d) says members to the women reserved seats, which are allocated to a province, shall be elected in accordance with law through proportional representation system of political parties’ lists of candidates on the basis of total number of general seats secured by each political party from the province concerned in the NA.

Article 41(6) (e) says members to the seats reserved for non-Muslims shall be elected in accordance with law through proportional representation system of political parties’ lists of candidates on the basis of total number of general seats won by each political party in the National Assembly.

78 reserved seats

The ECP has so far kept on hold the allocation of 78 out of the total 226 reserved seats for women in the national and provincial assemblies — all of which were to go to SIC, under the formula.

Out of the total 60 reserved seats for women in the NA, the ECP has so far allocated 40 seats to different political parties. These include 20 of the total 32 for Punjab, two out of 10 for KP, all 14 from Sindh and all four from Balochistan. Likewise, it has allocated seven out of 10 seats reserved for minorities in the NA.

Of the total 66 reserved seats for women in the Punjab Assembly, it had allocated 42 seats and five out of eight reserved for minorities. In Sindh Assembly, it had allocated 27 of the total 29 seats reserved for women and eight out of nine reserved for minorities.

It has allocated five out of total 26 reserved seats for women in the KP assembly and one out of four reserved for minorities.

All the 11 reserved seats for women and three for minorities in Balochistan Assembly have already been allocated.

‘Unconstitutional’

Meanwhile, the PTI has warned that PM’s election by an incomplete NA without the allocation of the reserved seats for women and minorities would be unconstitutional.

In a statement, a party spokesperson said that a speaker and deputy speaker elected by “mandate thieves” would not have any constitutional status.

He said that the Constitution was trampled under foot when they elected a speaker in an incomplete National Assembly, and recalled that a total of 23 PTI-backed members were being deprived of their constitutional right of the reserved seats.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2024

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