PESHAWAR: Peshawar High Court on Tuesday sought reply from Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to a petition challenging its order of making the Senate polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa conditional to taking of oath by opposition members elected on seats reserved for women and non-Muslims.

A bench consisting of Justice Syed Mohammad Attique Shah and Justice Syed Arshad Ali issued the order after preliminary hearing of the petition filed by leader of Pakistan Tehreek-i- Insaf and a candidate for Senate polls, Mohammad Azam Swati, who challenged the ECP’s order of March 28 about possible postponement of Senate polls in the province.

The petitioner has requested the court to order ECP to hold Senate polls in the province on April 2 as scheduled.

The petition was filed on March 30 before the Tuesday’s announcement of ECP about postponing the polls to the extent of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa till administration of oath to the elected members against the reserved seats.

Contempt petition also filed against PA speaker, deputy speaker

On March 28, ECP declared in response to the applications of five women MPAs-elect that if the speaker of the provincial assembly failed to comply with the directions of the high court to administer oath to the lawmakers elected on reserved seats, it [the commission] would be constrained to postpone Senate election in the province until the administration of oath to the applicants.

The petitioner’s counsel, Ali Zamanm argued that Senate polls were being conducted across the country and ECP postponed the same in KP on ground of the high court’s order of asking the assembly speaker to administer oath to the members elected on reserved seats.

He said that the order of ECP was illegal and unconstitutional. He stated that the petitioner was a contesting candidate, but he was neither heard by ECP nor was he issued any notice for it.

The counsel argued that ECP had no powers to postpone Senate election in the province when the same was conducted in other parts of the country.

Justice Attique Shah observed that in other provinces assemblies were complete as all the members had taken oath, whereas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the members elected on reserved seats had yet to take oath.

The bench wondered when in Punjab they made arrangements with the government and senators were elected there unopposed then why only in KP oath was not administered to the said MPAs.

It inquired to what extent the order of the high court to the speaker of the assembly to administer oath to the members was implemented.

The counsel stated that ECP had misinterpreted the earlier order of high court and postponed Senate election on that pretext. He added that the impugned order of ECP was uncalled for and against the law.

Meanwhile, the bench also adjourned hearing of three review petitions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Speaker Babar Saleem Swati requesting for reviewing its judgment of March 27 wherein the petitioner was directed to administer oath to the MPAs elected on reserved seats.

After preliminary hearing, the bench decided to hear the review pleas after detailed judgment was released in the said cases.

The high court had on March 27 accepted three petitions of around 20 of the members elected on reserved seats and ordered the speaker of the provincial assembly to administer oath to them and also to allow and facilitate them in casting votes in Senate election on April 2.

Advocate Ali Azim Afridi appeared for the speaker and contended that the order was liable to be reviewed by the court in line with Constitution and established rules.

He stated that administering oath to members was only possible when assembly session was summoned or requisitioned as per the mandate of Article 65 of Constitution. He added that the speaker couldn’t summon a session on his own unless requisition was filed by one fourth of the members of the assembly.

The bench observed that as detailed judgment had so far not been released by the court, therefore, the review pleas would be heard later.

CONTEMPT: Four women opposition MPAs elected on reserved seats on Tuesday filed a contempt petition against the speaker and deputy speaker of KP Assembly requesting the court to initiate contempt proceedings against them for not implementing its order.

The petitioners including Shazia Tehmas, Faiza Malik, Amina Sardar and Shazia Jadoon also requested the court to order disqualification of Speaker Babar Saleem Swati and Deputy Speaker Suriya Bibi from holding any public office as they had willfully flouted the March 27 order of the high court.

The petition, filed through senior lawyer Aamir Javed, stated that the speaker should have done necessary correspondence for the requisitioning of the session of the assembly and including administering oath to MPAs as Agenda Item No 1 by April 2 but no process for oath taking had been arranged, thus openly defying the time bound order of the high court.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2024

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