Pakistan Poll Body Rejects PTI-Backed SIC Plea Seeking Allocation Of Reserved Seats

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ISLAMABAD: In a huge setback to Imran Khan, Pakistan’s election commission on Monday ruled that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) is not eligible for the reserved seats allotted to women and minorities in Parliament and their share of seats should be allotted to other parties. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced the split decision with a 4-1 majority, with ECP Punjab member Hassan Bharwana dissenting with the majority verdict.

The ECP said the SIC, a political alliance of Islamic political and Barelvi religious parties in Pakistan, is 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 the requirement of law”.

The ECP had reserved the verdict on the petitions filed by the SIC seeking the allocation of women and minority seats after PTI-backed winning candidates joined its ranks following the February 8 elections. More than 90 independent candidates backed by jailed former prime minister Khan won the elections to the National Assembly.

A five-member bench, chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, heard the matter and reserved the verdict on February 28. The PTI-backed independent candidates took the lead in the February 8 elections after they won the 92 National Assembly seats followed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) (79) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) (54).

The reserved seats were allocated to all political parties according to their strength in the assemblies except the PTI-backed SIC. “The seats in the National Assembly shall not remain vacant and will be allotted by proportional representation process of political parties on the basis of seats won by political parties,” the order said.

The ECP had not allotted 23 seats out of 60 for women and 3 out of 10 for minorities in the National Assembly to any party. The main reason for not allotting the reserved seats was that the SIC had not provided a list of candidates for the reserved seats. By law, every party should provide a list of candidates to the ECP before elections.

The SIC may not have imagined getting any seat but it suddenly rose to prominence after the independent candidates backed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf joined the right-wing religious party with the hope to get the reserved seats. Earlier, Khan’s PTI was deprived of its common symbol of bat and its candidate had to contest independently. The decision of ECP would impact the election of the president and members of the Senate which are due this month.

PTI’s Senator Ali Zafar speaking in the Senate lashed at the ECP verdict, calling the ECP chief and its members to resign. “They don’t deserve and should step down,” he said. He also announced a challenge to the ruling in the Supreme Court and demanded that the election of the president and new senators should be stopped until the matter was adjudicated by the apex court.

“We demand that the election of the president and senators should be postponed otherwise the process will be reversed if the top court granted our petition,” he said.

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