IHC issues notices to ECP, PML-N on PTI petition

The Islamabad High Court has issued notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for June 21 after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) challenged ECP's stay on a notification of reserved seats for women and minority members in the Punjab Assembly.

The petition, filed by the PTI for the notification of the Punjab Assembly members against the reserved seats for women and minority members through Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, was heard by Justice Aamir Farooq.

Barrister Zafar submitted that the elections of the Punjab chief minister were held on April 16 in which amongst others five members of the PTI in Punjab Assembly against reserved seats for women and minority voted against the party directions in favour of Hamza Shehbaz instead of Chaudhry Parvez Elahi.

Consequently, the assembly members were de-seated through an order of ECP on 20th May.
Barrister Zafar submitted that under Article 224(6) of the Constitution, when a seat reserved for women or non-Muslims in a provincial assembly falls vacant, it is to be filled in by the next person in order of precedence from the party list of candidates by the political party whose members have vacated such seat.

Relying on Article 224(6) as well as Section 104(5) of the Elections Act, 2017, Barrister Zafar submitted that the PTI had given a party list immediately after the general elections in 2018 to the ECP which was bound to issue the notification of PTI’s Batool Zain, Saira Raza and Fouzia Abbas Naseem against reserved seats for women as they were the next in the order of precedence in the PTI’s list.

According to Barrister Zafar, the ECP was only to conduct an administrative and mechanical process and notify the nominated party members on the list but the commission instead passed an order on June 2, stating that the notification of the members on the reserved seats will be deferred till the election of 20 seats in the general elections which fell vacant because of disqualification of defecting PTI members under Article 63A of the Constitution relating to the defection of assembly members.

Barrister Zafar argued that by virtue of the order, the ECP has amended the Constitution and made Article 224 redundant which the commission was not entitled to and, hence, the order is illegal.

He submitted that the ECP order was without jurisdiction under the law and contrary to the Constitution as there is no provision under the law in which ECP can stop or suspend the operation of Article 224.

The court after hearing the arguments of the learned counsel issued notices to ECP as well as PML-N. In view of the urgency of the matter, the next date of hearing was fixed for Tuesday i.e. 21st June.

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