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Pakistan: Imran Khan-backed party to move Supreme Court after being denied reserved seats

Despite winning the most seats in the elections, Imran Khan-backed candidates were unable to form the government and joined the Sunni Ittehad Council. The SIC sought directives of the high court for the allocation of seats reserved for women and minorities in the National Assembly.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Peshawar Published on: March 15, 2024 16:16 IST
Imran Khan, Pakistan, Supreme Court, reserved seats
Image Source : PTI (FILE) Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan

Peshawar: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday rejected a petition by Imran Khan-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) challenging the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) decision to reject the allocation of reserved and minority seats to the party. In response, the SIC has decided to move the matter to the Supreme Court to claim its share of reserved seats.

On March 4, the ECP rejected a petition filed by the SIC seeking the allocation of reserved seats in the National Assembly by a 4-1 verdict, saying the party was 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 which is the requirement of the law”, Dawn reported.

There are 70 reserved seats in the National Assembly and 156 in the provincial assemblies that are allotted proportionally to the winning parties in the general elections. The reserved seats were allocated to all political parties according to their strength in the assemblies except the PTI-backed SIC.

SIC demands allocation of reserved seats

The SIC - joined by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) independents who won the majority of the seats but were unable to form the government - sought directives of the court for the ECP to allocate reserved sears to the council based on their strength in the national and provincial assemblies. Notably, the PTI battled a military-backed crackdown, with several leaders jailed and its electoral symbol denied.

On March 6, the court granted interim relief to the SIC and directed the speaker of the National Asse­mbly not to administer an oath to the eight MNAs-elect on reserved seats from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The chief justice of the PHC constituted a special larger bench consisting of five senior-most judges to hear the matter.

However, the PHC upheld the ECP's decision, questioning why the party did not submit any priority list of candidates as per the requirement of the law. It was further observed that after the judgement of the apex court in the intra-party election case, the PTI should have re-conducted party polls.

After the PHC verdict, PTI Chairman Gohar Ali Khan told reporters outside the Adiala jail in Rawalpindi that the former ruling party would move the Supreme Court to claim its share of reserved seats and urged the apex court to constitute a larger bench to hear the case.

PTI to 'merge' with SIC

Meanwhile, PTI leader Asad Qaiser said his party would merge with the Sunni Ittehad Council if the election commission accepted its recent intra-party polls and returned its iconic poll symbol. He said if the party got back its cricket bat electoral symbol after the recent organisational polls, then both parties would merge and “remain as PTI”. 

Qaiser explained that if the party got back its electoral symbol after the recent intra-party polls, “both [parties] would merge” and “remain as PTI”, rather than the current scenario of its candidates being a part of the SIC. This came after Barrister Gohar Ali Khan was elected as its chairman following fresh intra-party polls after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) rejected the organisational elections held in December last year.

Though more than 90 independent candidates backed by Khan’s PTI won the maximum number of seats in the National Assembly, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led by former PM Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led by ex-foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto struck a post-poll deal and formed a coalition government earlier this month.

(with PTI inputs)

ALSO READ | Pakistan: Ishaq Dar becomes Foreign Minister as Shehbaz Sharif's 19-member Cabinet sworn in

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