PESHAWAR: With the Senate elections slated for today (Tuesday), the dispute over the swearing-in of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly’s opposition members elected to reserved seats is still far from resolved.

Those 25 lawmakers — 21 elected on seats reserved for women and four on those for non-Muslims — await the administration of oaths by Speaker Babar Saleem Swati to participate in the Senate polls.

The provincial election commission will send its relevant staff members to the assembly today (Tuesday) for the electoral exercise in line with the schedule announced earlier, according to a senior official.

He, however, said in light of the orders of the Peshawar High Court, the commission would conduct polls only if the speaker administeredoaths to MPAs-elect.

ECP says it won’t hold polls if oath not administered to members-elect

“We [the ECP] won’t hold elections if members aren’t sworn in,” he said.

In a related development, Speaker Babar Saleem Swati on Monday approached the Peshawar High Court with a review petition about its orders for the administration of oaths to the MPAs elected on reserved seats.

The speaker insists the provincial government hasn’t convened the sitting, so how he could administer oaths to those lawmakers.

A high court bench will hear his petition plea today (Tuesday) morning.

The provincial government is reluctant to call the assembly’s session for the swearing-in of the MPAs elected on reserved seats.

The provincial government has said it has yet to decide whether or not to call the house to administer oaths to the MPAs-elect.

“I cannot say anything about any late night decision [to call the sitting]; otherwise, there will be no session,” spokesman for the government, Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif told Dawn.

He said that the government was ready to go for elections if the ECP wanted to hold them.

“We [the government] won’t hesitate to render any sacrifice for democracy,” he said.

On March 27, the Peshawar High Court ordered the speaker of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly to administer the oath of office to the opposition members elected to reserved seats for women and non-Muslims and facilitate their casting votes in the April 2 Senate elections.

The order was issued when a high court bench consisting of Justice Syed Mohammad Attique Shah and Justice Shakeel Ahmad accepted three almost identical petitions filed by around 20 opposition MPAs-elect and directed the speaker to include the matter as agenda item No. 1 on the first business day of the session requisitioned for the Senate elections.

The next day, the ECP hinted at postponing polls over the speaker’s reluctance to the swearing-in of lawmakers-elect.

On March 22, opposition members staged a demonstration and announced they would take the government to court over refusal to follow the orders of the governor for calling the assembly on March 22 for administering oaths to women and non-Muslim MPAs.

They alleged that the government wanted to deprive the lawmakers, who were elected on reserved seats and notified by the Election Commission of Pakistan, of the right to cast their votes in the upcoming Senate polls.

A total of 28 candidates are in the running for the Senate seats from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2024

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