• Commission irked at provincial assembly speaker’s refusal to administer oath to members elected on reserved seats
• Former caretaker prime minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar among nine senators elected unopposed from Balochistan

ISLAMABAD: The controversy over a delay in the oath-taking of Khyber Pakhtun­khwa Assembly members took a new turn on Thursday, as the Election Commission of Pakis­tan (ECP) hinted at postponing Senate elections if the provincial assembly speaker keeps on dragging his feet on administering the oath to MPAs elected on reserved seats.

The order was issued by a five-member ECP bench led by Chief Election Commi­ssioner Sikandar Sultan Raja. The bench deliberated on several petitions urging the KP Assembly speaker to perform the oath-taking ceremony for members allocated reserved seats for women.

“Under Article 17 of the Constitution, every citizen has the right to vote to participate in the governance of the country through their chosen representatives,” the bench announced.

“The law provides the people of this country, irrespective of their social, ethnical status and religious affiliation, to choose their representative in whom they repose confidence. Hence, every eligible individual should be allowed to utilise the right to vote irrespective of his caste or creed or any other consideration,” it said.

It said the Supreme Court had adjudged many cases on the aspect of voters’ access to the credentials of the contesting candidates. It refers to the case of Mian Najeebud Din Owaisi vs. Amir Yar (2013), where the Supreme Court held that the “voters who are about to elect their representatives are one of the most important stakeholders”.

Therefore, “to achieve the object of honest, just and fair elections, they would not constitutionally and legally allow a candidate to manage to sneak into Parliament without proving that he is qualified to represent them as such representative has to perform the noblest and honourable job of making policies and laws for the nat­ion”, the top court said in its decision. It said that the right to vote was a fundamental right that no voter could be deprived of.

The ECP said in its order that Article 218(3) of the Constitution casts duty upon the commission to make all such arrangements to ensure free and fair elections. “Such arrangements encompass facilitation of voters to cast their votes. The commission will be failing in its constitutional duties if a voter is not provided a level playing field to exercise his right,” it emphasised.

The Election Commission also referred to a Supreme Court judgement in the Workers Party’s case, where the top court held that the ECP “may also exercise its powers in anticipation of an ill that may have the effect of rendering the election unfair”.

Section 4(1) of the Elections Act 2017 empowers the ECP to “issue such directions or orders as may be necessary for the performance of its functions and duties, including an order for doing complete justice in any matter pending before it and an order for the purpose of securing the attendance of any person or the discovery or production of any document”.

Similarly, Section 8(c) of the act empowers the commission to issue such instructions, exercise such powers and make such consequential orders as may, in its opinion, be necessary for ensuring that an election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and according to the law.

Besides, Article 218(3) of the Constitution also casts an onerous duty upon the ECP to ensure a free and fair election, exercise such powers, and make such arrangements to fulfil the constitutional command. Section 128 empowers the commission to extend the time for completion of the Sen­ate election, for reasons it considers sufficient, by making necessary amendments to the notification issued under Sec­tion 107 of the Elections Act.

“Therefore, in case of non-compliance with directions and orders issued under Article 218(3) read with Section 4(1) and Section 8(c) of the act, the commission, in addition to any other action, may extend the time for completion of the Senate election to the extent of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa until the administration of oath to the members of the provincial assembly against the reserved seats, including those of the applicants,” the order said.

Moreover, in case the KP Assembly speaker fails to comply with the directions of the Peshawar High Court, the commission might postpone the ensuing Senate election, extend the time for completion of the Senate polls for the KP Assembly in terms of Section 128 of the act, and amend the notification issued under Section 207 of the act until the administration of the oath to the applicants, the order said.

Five MPAs-elect on women reserved seats — Jamila Paracha, Afshan Hussain, Amna Sardar, Faiza Malik and Shazia Jadoon — and a non-Muslim candidate, Suresh Kumar, had moved the Election Commission that they were being denied the opportunity to take the oath as members of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.

Nine senators from Balochistan elected unopposed

Nine candidates from six parliamentary parties, including former caretaker prime minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar, were elected as Senate members unopposed from Balochistan on Thursday. Now, the April 2 election will be held on only two seats reserved for technocrats in the province.

Twenty out of the 33 Senate candidates withdrew their nomination papers on Wednesday, the last date for withdrawal.

Therefore, 13 candidates were left to contest for 11 Senate seats from Balochistan, including seven general seats, two for technocrats, and two reserved seats.

After five female candidates withdrew, two remained in the field to contest the election, the Balochistan election commissioner, Muhammad Fareed Afridi, said on Thursday and declared Rahat Faiq Jamali and Husna Bibi of PPP elected unopposed as senators.

The seven senators elected unopposed on general seats from the province are former caretaker premier Mr Kakar (independent), Saidal Khan Nasar (PML-N), Agha Shahzeb Durrani (PML-N), Sardar Umar Gorgage (PPP), Jan Muhammad Buledi (National Party), Ahmed Khan Khilji (JUI-F) and Aimal Wali Khan (ANP).

Eight candidates remained for the seven general seats, but the PPP candidate, Ejaz Ahmed, left the race on Thursday.

According to the final list of the candidates, three are now left on two reserved seats for technocrats in Balochistan.

The included Muhammad Bilal Mandokhail (PPP), Maulana Abdul Wasey (JUI-F) and Maslehud Din (independent). However, efforts were underway to encourage Mr Din to step down from the race.

Saleem Shahid in Quetta also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

First steps
Updated 29 May, 2024

First steps

One hopes that this small change will pave the way for bigger things.
Rafah inferno
29 May, 2024

Rafah inferno

THE level of barbarity witnessed in Sunday’s Israeli air strike targeting a refugee camp in Rafah is shocking even...
On a whim
29 May, 2024

On a whim

THE sudden declaration of May 28 as a public holiday to observe Youm-i-Takbeer — the anniversary of Pakistan’s...
Afghan puzzle
Updated 28 May, 2024

Afghan puzzle

Unless these elements are neutralised, it will not be possible to have the upper hand over terrorist groups.
Attacking minorities
28 May, 2024

Attacking minorities

Mobs turn into executioners due to the authorities’ helplessness before these elements.
Persistent scourge
Updated 29 May, 2024

Persistent scourge

THE challenge of polio in Pakistan has reached a new nadir, drawing grave concerns from the Technical Advisory Group...