ISLAMABAD: Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) Chairman Mohammad Hamid Raza on Saturday approached the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to seek postponement of April 9 elections being held to fill the seats of Senate chairman and deputy chairman.

A petition filed through senior counsel Hamid Khan in this regard said that election should be held to a date after polls in the upper house from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

It argued that election on the 11 vacant Senate seats from KP and its notification were prerequisite under the Constitution for the election of Senate chairman and deputy chairman. The petition has been filed under Article 60, read with Article 218(3).

On April 2, election on the 11 seats were postponed on ECP order. The election was postponed on the grounds that members of the provincial assembly purportedly elected on the reserved seats as provided under Article 106 had not taken the oath of their offices and since the electoral college was incomplete, the arrangement for Senate election could not be made.

Upper house is incomplete without the election on 11 vacant seats representing KP, petition argues

The petition regretted that the ECP, in utter violation of the Constitution, delayed the elections to the KP Assembly despite clear mandate of the green book. This deviance from the Constitution should end at once to save the democracy in Pakistan, the petition pleaded.

The postponement of election on the vacant seats of Senate from KP by the ECP through the notification was an ugly manifestation of disregard to the Constitution, according to the petition.

The election on the reserved seats of the assembly had taken place pursuant to an ECP order of Feb 28. Thereafter, a writ petition was filed by SIC before the Peshawar High Court (PHC) against the ECP order that was dismissed on March 25. The matter is now before the Supreme Court as civil petition for leave to appeal has been filed by the council against the PHC judgement.

As a result of the postponement of the election from KP assembly, the mandate of the SIC was not respected and the reserved seats to which it was entitled to as per the law and under Articles 51 and 106 of the Constitution read with the Elections Act, 2017 were unlawfully denied to it and unconstitutionally allocated to other political parties, it added.

The vacant seats of the Senate were to be filled as per Article 59 and the law for which the KP assembly was the electoral college, the petition said, adding that the SIC had allotted tickets to its candidates who were most likely to be elected in the April 2 election, which were postponed.

But suddenly and without assigning any reasons and without issuing notice to the speaker of KP assembly, the ECP illegally and without lawful authority partially modified the notification, it argued.

Thus, it claimed, the April 2 notification was issued without lawful authority in as much constitutional violation as ECP has now announced election to the offices of chairman and deputy chairman with the exclusion of SIC whose mandate was continuously being denied.

The petition added that election to the offices of chairman and deputy chairman could not be held without holding elections to the vacant seats of the Senate from KP which amounts to undermining the provincial autonomy and due representation of KP in the Senate.

Under Article 60, election to the two offices of the Senate can only be held after the house has been duly constituted. With the electoral college incomplete and not duly constituted, this election would be another constitutional violation, it added.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2024

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