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September 17, 2019

Women reserved seat: PHC restrains ECP from notifying PTI candidate


September 17, 2019

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Monday restrained the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) from notifying the election of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate on the vacant seat reserved for women from the merged districts.

A division bench comprising Justice Lal Jan Khattak and Justice Naeem Anwar issued the stay order in an appeal filed by another PTI candidate Ayesha Bibi against the decision of the Election Appellate Tribunal.

The tribunal had declared her disqualified for the party’s vacant seat reserved for women from tribal districts in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.

The bench stayed the notification till the release of the detailed judgement by the Appellate Tribunal in her disqualification case.

Ayesha Bibi, who was at number 1 in the PTI’s priority list, has challenged the Election Appellate Tribunal decision in the Peshawar High Court against her disqualification for the party’s vacant reserved seat.

After the petitioner’s disqualification, another PTI candidate Mehreen Rauf Afridi, who was at number 3 in the list, had a chance to be notified as the PTI MPA on the reserved seat.

The Appellate Tribunal on Friday declared void the order of the Returning Officer (RO) and rejected the nomination papers of the top PTI candidate Ayesha Bibi.

During arguments, Ayesha Bibi’s lawyer submitted that the Appellate Tribunal issued a short order about the disqualification of his client and it also said that reasons would be recorded in the detailed judgement.

He submitted that the court stayed the notification until detailed judgement so that the petitioner could know on what grounds she was disqualified.

Interestingly, the RO had verified and accepted Ayesha Bibi’s nomination papers on August 28 for the vacant seat, but Mehreen Rauf Afridi challenged the RO’s decision in the Appellate Tribunal, claiming that she was not a registered voter in the erstwhile Fata before release of schedule for the election of the reserved seat.

The tribunal head, PHC’s Justice Mussarat Hilali, accepted an appeal of Mehreen Rauf Afridi and declared that Ayesha Bibi was not qualified to contest election as she was not a registered voter in any of the merged districts.

The PTI leadership in a bid to stay away from controversy has remained silent over the legal battle between the two party candidates.

Ayesha Bibi from Mohmand district was the top PTI candidate in the priority list, followed by Wafa Wazir, who is now out of the contest as she failed to file her nomination papers for the election. Mehreen Rauf Afridi was mentioned by the party at number 3.

Wafa Wazir had also filed a writ petition in the PHC seeking direction from the court to accept her nomination papers, which she claimed were received late by the RO after the end of the deadline given in the election schedule.

Mehreen Rauf Afridi stated in her petition that only the candidates registered as voters in the merged districts were eligible to contest poll for the two reserved seats.

She claimed that Ayesha Bibi on the date of filing of her nomination papers was not a registered voter in any of the tribal districts and that she obtained her voter certificate on August 28 though there was a ban on registration of new voters.

She termed as unlawful the acceptance of her nomination papers by the RO and requested the tribunal to set aside the decision.

The lawyer for Ayesha Bibi said his client had submitted Form-21 for the registration of vote to the ECP on August 16 well in time before imposition of the ban on August 19 and thus she was qualified for the reserved seat.

The ECP has also issued a notification modifying election schedule, which declares that the revised list of candidates for the two reserved seats would be published on September 16, after which nomination papers can be withdrawn by candidates on September 17. It said that the list of contesting candidates would be released on September 18.

In light of the number of general seats won by political parties in the July 20 election in ex-Fata, the ECP has already allotted the said two seats to the PTI and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) and directed the two parties to produce their respective priority lists of candidates until August 26.

According to the number of general seats won by a political party in the merged districts, two of the four women reserved seats were allotted to PTI and one each to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and BAP.

However, as the PTI had earlier given the name of Aneeta Mehsud only and BAP had not submitted any priority list, two seats had remained vacant for which the schedule for the fresh election was issued by the ECP.