ISLAMABAD: The Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) — the new home for PTI lawmakers-elect — on Monday filed a petition in the Supreme Court, challenging the Peshawar High Court (PHC) order that deprived the party of seats reserved for women and minorities.

Meanwhile, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly speaker has also approached the PHC against its division bench’s directive for him to administer oath to MPAs notified on reserved seats.

Moved by SIC Chairman Sahibzada Mohammad Hamid Raza through senior counsel Faisal Siddiqui, the petition before the Supreme Court seeks the setting aside of the PHC judgement of March 14.

The SIC was earlier joined by PTI-backed independent candidates after they won the Feb 8 elections, since Imran Khan’s party had been deprived of its electoral symbol ‘bat’.

Earlier, in a four-one verdict, the ECP had ruled that the SIC was not entitled to claim quota for reserved seats due to having non-curable legal defects and violation of a mandatory provision of submission of party list for reserved seats which is a requirement of the law.

KP Assembly speaker challenges PHC order to administer oath to MPAs-elect

The SIC apprised the SC that the PHC verdict was based on a fundamental misconception and misinterpretation of Articles 51 and 106. The interpretation of both articles in letter and spirit suggests the concept of a proportionate representation system based on a “total number of general seats secured by each political party from the province concerned in the National Assembly” or “total number of general seats secured by each political party in a provincial assembly”, it argued.

“In other words, the fact whether the political party, which now has general seats in the assemblies, had fought the election or not, is not a constitutional requirement for the allocation of reserved seats under proportional representation system,” the petition emphasised.

Besides, it added, the high court’s judgement was based on a fundamental misconception and misinterpretation of the Elections Act 2017.

It argued that neither SIC nor PTI was legally required to submit its list of candidates for reserved seats before the election, as neither SIC nor PTI contested the general election of 2024 under the election symbol rather its electoral candidates contested the said general election as independent candidates. “In other words, the requirement to submit lists for reserved seats prior to the general election only applies to the political parties which contest such election, and not to those which become parliamentary parties/political parties in the national and provincial assemblies as a result of the joining of independent candidates declared successful in elections,” it argued.

Oath-taking order challenged

KP Assembly Speaker Babar Saleem Swati on Monday filed a review petition in PHC against the division bench’s verdict asking him to administer the oath to the MPAs elected on reserved seats.

On March 27, the PHC division bench consisting of Justice Syed Mohammad Attique Shah and Justice Shakeel Ahmad had accepted three identical petitions filed by opposition MPAs elected on reserved seats, and directed the speaker to include the matter as agenda item No. 1 of the first business day of the session requisitioned for the Senate elections.

Mr Swati in the petition filed through Advocate Ali Azeem Afridi requested the PHC to review the March 27 judgement because it did not take hold of the factual position insofar session requisitioned; to say nothing of facilitation of respondent(s) casting their votes in the upcoming Senate elections.

It asserted the speaker could only convene a session of the assembly upon requisition from the government or opposition.

The petition stated that the speaker’s office holds no information, as to summoning of or session requisitioned for the upcoming Senate elections by the government, let alone inclusion of the matter in question as agenda item No. 1 of the first business day of the session requisitioned and facilitation of respondent(s).

Meanwhile, a PHC division bench took up a petition filed by PTI leader Azam Khan Swati against the ECP about the possible postponement of the Senate polls in KP. The bench decided to club his petition with the review plea of the KP Assembly speaker and adjourned the hearing to Tuesday (today).

Manzoor Ali in Peshawar also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2024

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