PESHAWAR: The legal battle is far from over between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s two women candidates for a vacant party seat reserved for women from the erstwhile Fata in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.
A bench of the Peshawar High Court on Thursday declared the nomination papers of the top ranked candidate of the ruling PTI, Ayesha Bibi, as valid. Her papers were earlier rejected by an election appellate tribunal.
However, Mehreen Rauf Afridi, who is at serial number 3 in the party’s priority list, has decided to challenge in the Supreme Court of Pakistan the PHC decision to declare Ayesha Bibi eligible for the reserved seat.
Fazal Shah Mohmand, lawyer for Mehreen Rauf Afridi, told The News that he would file an appeal against the PHC decision in Supreme Court once the detailed judgement was released.
A division bench comprising Justice Lal Jan Khattak and Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim allowed the writ petition of Ayesha Bibi against the order of the election appellate tribunal that the petitioner couldn’t contest election for the seat as she wasn’t a voter in any of the merged tribal districts. The tribunal had accepted an appeal of another PTI candidate, Mehreen Rauf Afridi against Ayesha Bibi.
The appellate tribunal had set aside the order of the relevant returning officer to accept nomination papers of Ayesha Bibi.
Ayesha Bibi has been mentioned at serial number 1 in the PTI’s priority list of candidates for the reserved seats.
On the other hand, the PTI leadership in a bid to stay away from the controversy has remained silent over the legal battle between the two party candidates. The legal battle has now reached the Supreme Court, but the party did not intervene in the matter.
Jahangir Khan Mohmand, the legal counsel for Ayesha Bibi, submitted that the election tribunal had disqualified his client without proper legal justification.
He contended that the returning officer had accepted nomination papers of the petitioner after fulfilling all legal requirements and going through the record.
The lawyer said his client had submitted Form 21 for the registration of vote to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on August 16 ahead of the imposition of the ban on voter registration in ex-Fata on August 19.
He said later the voter certificate was duly issued to the petitioner and during the scrutiny of nomination papers she was declared an eligible voter in the erstwhile Fata.
The lawyer for Mehreen Rauf Afridi submitted that according to the ECP schedule the nomination papers by the candidates had to be filed by August 26.
He added that after the filing of nomination papers, scrutiny by the returning officer took place on August 28.
The lawyer said only those candidates who were registered as voters in the merged tribal districts were eligible to contest for the two seats reserved for women.
He claimed that the petitioner on the date of filing her nomination papers was not a registered voter in any of the tribal districts as she obtained her voter certificate on August 28 when there was already a ban on the registration of new voters.
According to the number of general seats won by political parties in the July 20 provincial assembly polls in the merged tribal districts, two of the four women reserved seats were allocated to the PTI and one each to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Balochistan Awami Party (BAP).
However, as the PTI had earlier given the name of Aneeta Mehsud only and the BAP had not submitted any priority list, two women reserved seats had remained vacant for which fresh election schedule was issued by the ECP.
The ECP has already allocated the two seats to the PTI and BAP and directed the two parties to produce their priority lists of candidates.
Ayesha Bibi from Mohmand district was the top PTI candidate in the 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 returning officer after the end of the deadline given in the election schedule. However, the PHC dismissed her petition which put her out of the race.