PESHAWAR: The Pesh­awar High Court (PHC) has directed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister and cabinet to convene the assembly session within a fortnight to ensure that those elected on reserved seats for women and non-Muslims take oath.

A PHC bench comprising Justice Syed Mohammad Attique Shah and Justice Shakeel Ahmad, in its 24-page detailed judgement on three identical petitions filed by around 20 MPAs-elect of the opposition in KP, also ordered the provincial assembly speaker to administer the oath to the said MPAs-elect in the session to be requisitioned in accordance with the court order.

While the bench in its March 27 short order had not issued any such directive to the CM and the provincial cabinet, the court in its detailed judgement ord­ered both to “take all material steps in terms of Arti­cle 109 along with all enabling provisions of the Cons­titution for summoning the session of the provincial assembly within fortnight positively, after receipt of this judgement, so that the oath is administered to the petitioners in term of Article 65 of the Constitution before the upcoming Senate election”.

The PHC in its short order had directed the speaker to administer the oath to the petitioners in the session convened for Senate election of April 2 and also to facilitate voting in the election. But the ECP had to postpone the Senate polls in the province making it conditional with the said oath-taking, as no session was convened by the KP government.

Now multiple petitions have been filed in the high court — one by the speaker requesting the court to review its order and others by the MPAs-elect seeking implementation of the short order and initiating contempt proceedings against the speaker and the deputy speaker.

The PHC in its judgement observed that owing to a dispute over allocation of reserved seats, with the exception of Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) that has a majority in KP Assembly, the present dispensation was resisting oath to those who represent marginalised communities in order to deny them the right to participate in the assembly proceedings and also to deprive them of exercising their right to vote in the April 2 Senate election in violation of the Constitution.

Referring to the notifications issued by the ECP of declaring the petitioners as MPAs elected on reserved seats, the court ruled that after receipt of the said notification, the assembly secretary was obliged under the law to have informed the CM to requisition the assembly session to administer oath to the petitioners accordingly, but he failed to discharge his constitutional obligations for reasons best known to him.

The petitioners, including Shazia Tehmas Khan and 19 other MPAs belonging to the PPP-P, PML-N, JUI-F and PTI-P, had requested the court to declare illegal and unconstitutional the failure of both speaker and deputy speaker to call the assembly’s sitting for administering oath.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2024

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