Reserved seats conundrum: PML-N, PPP, JUI-F oppose SIC plea in Supreme Court

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Supreme Court

ISLAMABAD, JUN 3: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) on Monday opposed Sunni Ittehad Council’s (SIC) petition against the Peshawar High Court’s (PHC) verdict that denied it reserved seats for women and minorities.

The development came as the 13-member full court bench of the Supreme Court took up the plea of SIC, a major ally of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), challenging the PHC’s judgment regarding the reserved seats.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, comprised Justices Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Munib Akhtar, Yahya Afridi, Aminuddin Khan, Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Ayesha Malik, Athar Minallah, Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Shahid Waheed, Irfan Saadat Khan and Naeem Akhtar Afghan.

On May 6, a three-member SC bench headed by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, and including Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Athar Minallah, suspended the PHC verdict and referred the matter to the judges’ committee for the formation of a larger bench since the matter required constitutional interpretation.

The matter had ended up in the Supreme Court after the PHC had turned down SIC’s plea for reserved seats.

In April, SIC chief Sahibzada Hamid Raza as well as the speaker of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly had filed appeals in the apex court against the judgment of the PHC, praying to allot the party 67 women and 11 minority seats in the assemblies, besides praying for setting aside the high court’s verdict.

Following the February 8 general elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) decided not to allocate reserved seats for women and minorities to the SIC as it had not submitted its list of candidates for those seats. The decision was also upheld by the PHC.

However, when the decision was challenged in the Supreme Court, the PHC order was suspended.

Following the SC order, the ECP suspended the victory notifications of 77 lawmakers elected on reserved seats denied to the SIC.

Hamid Raza-led SIC gained prominence after the PTI-backed independent candidates — who won in the February 8 polls — joined it as their party was deprived of its electoral symbol “bat”.

However, PTI’s attempt to claim the reserved seats was thwarted in March when the commission ruled that the 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 party list for reserved seats”.

The commission not only denied the reserved seats to SIC, it distributed them among other parties.

Advocate Faisal Siddiqui appeared on behalf of the PTI-backed SIC, while the advocate general represented Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Today’s hearing
At the outset of the hearing, Advocate Siddiqui said that there are two different petitions before the court.

Meanwhile, the advocate general said that a petition for contempt of court has been filed against his government in the PHC for not following the court’s order.

The SIC’s lawyer then read out the verdict by the three-member bench in the previous hearing.

CJP Isa asked the opposing parties in the case and the beneficiaries who were made parties.

Advocate Siddiqui replied that those who have been given additional seats are the beneficiaries, adding that there are a total of 77 disputed seats.

He added that 22 National Assembly and 55 provincial assembly seats are disputed.

At this point, the CJP asked which parties got the eight seats from KP. To this, Siddiqui said PML-N received four seats while JUI-F and PPP got two seats each.

He also told the court that Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) also bagged an additional seat for women from Sindh. The counsel gave a breakdown of the seats to the CJP.

At this point, CJP Isa asked if any of the beneficiary party supports the SIC in court. To this, PPP, PML-N and JUI-F opposed the SIC plea.

Justice Akhtar then said that SIC did not win any seats as per the notification.

“There is no logic in ECP’s orders. On one hand it says the SIC did not contest the election and on the other it accepts it as a parliamentary party.”

Justice Shah then said that the ECP accepted the inclusion of candidates in the SIC, however, three days after the electoral body said that the party will not get reserved seats.

Advocate Siddiqui said that it is not necessary for a party to contest elections for reserved seats as per the law. “If independent candidates join a party then they are given reserved seats.”

The CJP asked: “The SIC did not contest elections. Is this the real position?”

To this, Siddiqui replied in the positive, saying this is the entire dispute.

The court then adjourned the hearing till 11:30am on Tuesday.