SC resumes hearing SIC’s plea on denial of reserved seats

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DNA

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has resumed hearing the Sunni Ittehad Council’s (SIC) plea against the Peshawar High Court’s (PHC) verdict upholding the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision denying them the reserved seats.

The case is being heard by a full-court SC bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa.

The bench comprises Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Malik, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Syed Hassan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Shahid Waheed, Justice Irfan Saadat Khan and Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan.

During the last hearing on June 27, Justice Minallah remarked that the ECP lacked the authority to kick out any party from the elections.

Meanwhile, CJP Isa had asked the ECP why the court shouldn’t consider  the candidates as belonging to the PTI.

Furthermore, Justice Malik questioned why the ECP declared the candidates as independent when they were in fact declaring their association with a political party.

Whereas Justice Muneeb, while referring to the apex court’s earlier decision wherein it had upheld the ECP’s decision to revoke the PTI’s “bat” symbol, clarified that the SC had not intended to exclude the PTI from the polls.

The court, during last week’s hearing, had directed the electoral body to provide PTI’s list regarding reserved seats to other lawyers along with the certificates and declarations of the candidates.

Reserved seats issue

The issue of the allocation of reserved seats emerged  after the PTI-backed independent candidates emerged victorious in the February 8 elections and subsequently joined the SIC in a bid to claim seats reserved for minorities and women.

The decision didn’t go in the PTI’s favour as the ECP, citing the party’s failure to submit its list of candidates, denied allocating the reserved seats to the SIC.

The PTI had then approached the PHC against the ECP’s decision which was eventually upheld by the court.

The former ruling party then moved the SC seeking to set aside the PHC verdict and the allocation of 67 women and 11 minority seats in the assemblies.

On May 6, a three-member SC bench headed by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, including Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Athar Minallah, suspended the PHC verdict.

It then referred the matter to the judges’ committee for the formation of a larger bench since the matter required constitutional interpretation.

The ECP, in its response submitted to the apex court, has maintained that the SIC does not qualify for reserved seats as the political party doesn’t allow non-Muslims to be a part of it.

The ECP also informed the top court that the reserved seats cannot be allotted to the SIC as the party did not submit the list of candidates before the January 24 deadline.

Meanwhile, Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan, on behalf of the government, has also submitted a 30-page written submission urging the SC to reject the SIC’s appeal seeking the allocation of reserved seats for women and minorities in the National and provincial assemblies.

Separately, the PTI has also moved the SC seeking to become a party in the said case contending that the ECP levelled “unfounded allegations on the PTI during the hearing of the SIC’s appeals”.

The former ruling party has maintained that they were deprived of reserved seats despite being eligible. The SIC was ready to provide a list of candidates for the allocations but was denied permission to submit it.