PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday restored Sadaf Ihsan as an MNA elected to one of the National Assembly seats reserved for women on the quota of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl.

In a short order, a bench consisting of Justice Syed Mohammad Attique Shah and Justice Sahibzada Asadullah declared that the Election Commission of Pakistan’s act of suspending its notification to declare Ms Sadaf an MNA was illegal, so it had been set aside.

Ms Sadaf had challenged the ECP’s March 11 notification that put on hold another order about her election as the returned candidate on a reserved seat.

The suspension of election notification came on the formal complaint of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and another candidate on the “priority list” of the party, Hina Bibi.

Sets aside ECP’s orders to suspend her election

Mr Fazl claimed that the name of Sadaf Ihsan was not on the priority list submitted by his party for the National Assembly seats reserved for women from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He added that Serial No 3 of that list had Sadaf Yasmeen, who didn’t submit her nomination papers, and not Sadaf Ihsan.

The ECP stopped action on the impugned notification, started an inquiry, and suspended the relevant returning officer.

The petitioner’s counsel, Mohammad Ishaq Shah, argued that his client was named on the priority list of the JUI-F at Serial No 3.

He added that on the basis of the number of seats won by every party in KP, the ECP notified the petitioner as MNA-elect along with other returned candidates on March 4.

The lawyer argued that the ECP “suddenly” issued the March 11 notification, insisting it had received a formal complaint from Mr Fazl that the party’s priority list didn’t carry the name of the petitioner. He demanded that the candidate named in Serial No 4 on the list, Hina Bibi, be declared MNA-elect.

He argued that the ECP had issued the impugned notification in an illegal manner as it had no powers under the Constitution or the Elections Act, 2017, to suspend the notification of an assembly candidate elected to any reserved seat.

The lawyer pointed out that once the election tribunals had been notified to decide election disputes, the ECP had no jurisdiction to see such complaints.

He said the other candidate, Hina Bibi, didn’t submit her nomination papers within the stipulated time.

During the hearing, Justice Sahibzada Asadullah asked counsel for the ECP Mohsin Kamran Siddique about the law under which the commission could suspend the notification of a candidate elected to a reserved seat.

The lawyer referred to several provisions of the Elections Act for the purpose.

The bench observed that the notification could be suspended only over the allegations of election rigging, which was not the matter in the current case.

The counsel argued that the petition was premature as the ECP had suspended that notification and hadn’t set it aside.

The lawyer for Hina Bibi said the petitioner was actually not on the priority list of the JUI-F, so the ECP’s act of giving away the National Assembly seat to her was illegal.

He added that the nomination papers of Hina Bibi were accepted on the orders of the Supreme Court, and therefore, she was entitled to be declared the returned candidate on the JUI-F’s ticket.

The petitioner also told the bench that her mother, Yasmeen, was an active member of the JUI-F, so her name caused confusion, leading to the mention of her name as Sadaf Yasmeen instead of Sadaf Ihsan in the priority list.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2024

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