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Tuesday April 23, 2024

ECP all set to hold open hearing on PTI-SIC reserved seats plea

Development comes as NA speaker decides to convene assembly session following President Alvi’s refusal

By Nausheen Yusuf
February 26, 2024
Security personnel stand guard at the headquarters of the Election Commission of Pakistan in Islamabad on September 21, 2023. — AFP
Security personnel stand guard at the headquarters of the Election Commission of Pakistan in Islamabad on September 21, 2023. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: In a major development, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced conducting an open hearing on the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) plea to award the remaining reserved seats after the inclusion of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-backed independent lawmakers.

The ECP issued the cause-list on Tuesday, stating that a five-member bench of the electoral body will hold the open hearing tomorrow.

It also issued notices to Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, SIC, Mahmood Khan, Maulvi Iqbal Haider and Kunz-us-Saadat.

The development comes shortly after it emerged that President Alvi reportedly refused to sign a Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs summary seeking the convening of a National Assembly session.

President Alvi has maintained that the remaining reserved seats should be allocated before summoning the NA session which is supposed to be held within 21 days of the elections under the Constitution.

Following his refusal, National Assembly's outgoing Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf “decided” to convene the inaugural session of the new lower house of parliament on February 29, well-placed sources confirmed Monday.

The PTI-affiliated independent members joined the SIC in a bid to retain reserved seats since the Constitution entitles parliamentary parties present in the different houses to have a quota of reserved seats for women and minorities.

These PTI-affiliated independents joined the SIC in the National and Punjab assemblies last week.

The idea behind this alliance was for the PTI independents to become a parliamentary group in the houses so they could avail the reserved seats.

Well-placed sources told The News that the SIC had approached the ECP and asked it to accept their contention of entitlement of reserved seats but ironically hadn’t submitted the list of its nominees for reserved seats till Sunday; the ECP was open on Sunday, despite it being a holiday.

The SIC chief was approached on Sunday evening to ascertain the reasons for not filing a list of its members but he wasn’t available.

Sources have quoted the constitutional obligations of the ECP in the matter. Article 219 says: “The Commission shall be charged with the duty of: (a) preparing electoral rolls for election to the National Assembly, Provincial Assemblies and local governments, and revising such rolls periodically to keep them up-to-date; (b) organizing and conducting election to the Senate or to fill casual vacancies in a House or a Provincial Assembly; and (c) appointing Election Tribunals; (d) the holding of general elections to the National Assembly, Provincial Assemblies and the local governments; and (e) such other functions as may be specified by an Act of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament).”

The sources have also indicated that the SIC could knock at the door of the superior judiciary regarding its claim on the reserved seats, once the ECP makes a decision and if it declines to oblige its submission.