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PESHAWAR: A five-member larger bench of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Thursday unanimously rejected the Sunni Ittehad Council’s petitions, seeking reserved seats for the party.

Justice Ishtiaq Ibrahim, the bench head, read out the verdict.

Other judges on the bench were Justice Ijaz Anwar, Justice Atiq Shah, Justice Shakeel Ahmad and Justice Arshad Ali.

A couple of hours ago, the court reserved its decision in the case. When the hearing started on Thursday, Barrister Ali Zafar during the hearing came to the rostrum and apologized over being absent in the hearing Wednesday.

Barrister Ali Zafar submitted that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was deprived of its symbol days before general elections.

He said that the PTI’s election symbol ‘bat’ was taken before the election and the candidates have to contest the election as independent.

On a question about the number of the seats in the National Assembly and provincial assemblies.

SIC lawyer said that the party has 86 seats in the NA, 90 seats in KP, 107 seats in Punjab, nine seats in Sindh and one member in Balochistan Assembly.

“Overall, the SIC has 226 seats in assemblies and it is entitled for 78 reserved seats,” he added.

“The election commission kept us aside and granted reserved seats to remaining political parties,” the lawyer said.

“Some political parties requested the ECP to grant these seats to us, as it was a vacant plot of land and someone came and encroached it,” SIC consul said.

Ali Zafar quoting Article 17 said that every citizen has the right to join or form a party.

“If a party formed, it could contest elections and form a government. We are entitled to all these rights under Article 17,” he said.

Ali Zafar argued that the election commission has been confused over differences between the parliamentary party and political party.

“The seats have been reserved for a specific purpose and not for distributing them freely,” he argued.

Justice Shakeel Ahmed said that the law uses the word ‘secure’, you didn’t secure the seats. “Your case of the Sunni Ittehad Council, the PTI joined it, both of them didn’t contest the election.

The reserved seats can be secured when the political parties have won the seats,” Justice Syed Arshad Ali said.

“You had time after the Supreme Court decision to hold the intra-party election, but you didn’t.”

“We conducted an intra-party election, but the election commission has still not accepted it,” Ali Zafar said.

Justice Ijaz Anwar remarked that the law refers to words, those who will contest the election will get the seats. “It is not written that a political party is sitting outside waiting for independent members to join it.”

The court said that the PTI had ample time to hold its intra-party elections. “Then why didn’t you hold the elections?” the judge questioned.

Barrister Zafar told the court that intra-party elections had been held.

“But the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) refused to accept the poll results,” he said, adding, “The PHC gave to the PTI its symbol. But the Supreme Court later stripped the party of that.”

Barrister Ali Zafar, counsel for the PTI-SIC, argued that that was not the case. “After all, SIC exists as a political party,” he said, adding, “Out of total 226 seats, the party is entitled to 78 seats.”

The judge asked Barrister Zafar what he had to say on the argument that the PTI had weakened its case by asking its MNAs and MPAs to join the SIC.

Barrister replied that there was an option that the PTI-backed independents could join the PTI after getting elected rather than the SIC.

“But there were some difficulties,” he said, “There were two reasons why we joined the SIC: the first reason was that the PTI had lost its election symbol prior to the February 8 elections.

And the second reason was that the Supreme Court had refused to acknowledge that the PTI’s intra-party elections were as per the party’s constitution.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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