PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Saturday decided to rehear the petition of a woman candidate against the suspension of a notification by the Election Commission of Pakistan of her election as MNA from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on seats reserved for women and issued a notice to Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman for a response on the matter.

On March 19, a bench consisting of Justice Syed Mohammad Attique Shah and Justice Sahibzada Asadullah pronounced a short order accepting the petition of Ms Sadaf Ihsan to restore her as MNA-elect to one of the National Assembly seats reserved for women on the quota of the JUI-F.

It 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.

Seeks JUI-F chief’s response on matter

The court, however, declared in an order issued on Saturday, “Though in the present case, the judgement was announced in the open court, while writing judgement, we thought it necessary that Ameer Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Pakistan, being a necessary party, must be put on notice, as in his absence the instant matter cannot be amicably decided, so in the interest of safe administration of justice, the parties and their counsel be put on notice for the rehearing of the case. However, the office is directed to ensure the service of Ameer Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Pakistan on the next date of hearing.”

The next hearing into the matter will be held on March 28.

The bench also ordered the suspension of the ECP’s March 11 notification and restrained the commission from denotifying the petitioner as MNA-elect until the next hearing.

The suspension of the election notification of petitioner Sadaf Ihsan, which was issued on March 4, came on the formal complaint of JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and another candidate on the ‘priority list’ of the party, Hina Bibi.

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.

On March 11, the ECP withheld action on its earlier notification, began an inquiry, and suspended the relevant returning officer.

The petitioner has insisted that she was named on the priority list of the JUI-F at Serial No 3. She added that on the basis of the number of seats won by every party in KP, the ECP notified her as the MNA-elect along with other returned candidates on March 4.

The petitioner said 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 and another candidate on the list, Hina Bibi should be declared MNA-elect.

She contended 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 of the reserved seats.

The petitioner claimed that once the election tribunals were notified to decide election disputes, the ECP had no jurisdiction to see such complaints.

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2024

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