ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Wednesday nominated senior counsel Farooq H. Naek to represent the party before the Supreme Court in the case related to seats reserved for women and minorities, which was filed by the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC).

On May 6, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah had suspended the March 14 Peshawar High Court (PHC) judgment as well as March 1 Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision depriving SIC of seats reserved for women and minorities.

The bench had also ordered placing the matter before the three-judge committee that determines fixation of cases to form a larger bench to hear the matter.

Though the top court will resume the hearing on June 3, the constitution of the larger bench has not yet been decided.

Apex court to take up the case filed by SIC on June 3

As a result of the Supreme Court move, the ECP on May 13 suspended the notifications of 77 returned candidates on reserved seats in the national and provincial assemblies. The interim order had also frustrated any attempt on the part of the government to bring any constitutional amendment through the parliament.

Talking to Dawn, Mr Naek said the party believed the reserved seats allocated to political parties which contested elections and then furnished a list of their candidates to be elected on the reserved seats, could not remain vacant, as otherwise it would be detrimental to the concept of parliamentary democracy.

This is a question, the Supreme Court has to determine as SIC was not an interested party in the matter since it did not provide any list of candidates to the ECP for the reserved seats, the counsel argued.

He explained that the SIC had not contested the Feb 8 general elections and even its chairman had contested the elections as an independent candidate.

When the party did not submit any list to ECP, it was not more entitled to claim any seat on the reserved seats , he said. However, the Supreme Court would have to find a way out to settle the controversy , he added.

In its last order, the SC had held that the question of allocation of reserved seats in the national and provincial assemblies touch upon the foundational constitutional concept of a parliamentary democracy that the voice of the electorate was truly reflected in the composition of the assemblies.

Democratic mandate necessitates that the allocation of reserved seats enhances representation of the electorate in the assemblies and upholds the principles of fairness and transparency in the electoral process. It was paramount to prioritise the integrity of the elections so that the parliament remained a true reflection of the will of the people, the apex court had explained.

Then the SC had taken up a set of appeals against the March 14 PHC order, which was moved by SIC Chairman Sahibzada Mohammad Hamid Raza through counsel Faisal Siddiqui. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly speaker had also approached the Supreme Court.

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-to-one verdict, the ECP had ruled that 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 the party list for reserved seats which is a requirement of the law.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2024

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