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Pakistan’s Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa comes to election commission's rescue on reserved seats

The top judge said the Supreme Court can only exercise its jurisdiction if it is convinced that the commission has gone beyond its constitutional role, pointing out that ideally, all institutions should fun­ction within their own pre­scribed domain.
Last Updated : 02 July 2024, 10:37 IST

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Islamabad: Amidst a legal tussle on the reserved seats in Pakistan's legislatures, Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa has ruled that the election commission was not a subordinate institution to the Supreme Court or the government but an independent authority conferred with a constitutional role to conduct elections.

He was heading a full court of the Supreme Court (SC) hearing on Monday on a set of app­eals by the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) against the denial of reserved seats to women and non-Muslim candidates, the Dawn newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The top judge said the Supreme Court can only exercise its jurisdiction if it is convinced that the commission has gone beyond its constitutional role, pointing out that ideally, all institutions should fun­ction within their own pre­scribed domain.

The Supreme Court ordered the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to do a calculation by applying the formula of allotting reserved seats among poli­tical parties based on the election results of 2018 by excluding, as well as including, independents to understand the difference, the report said.

The bench intends to understand the actual calculations of allocation of reserved seats applied to the results of the February 8 elections, the report said.

Last month, the ECP submitted to the Supreme Court that jailed former prime minister Imran Khan's party-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) is not eligible for reserved seats as the party does not allow non-Muslims to be a part of it.

The ECP filed a reply before the Supreme Court to the SIC plea against the rejection of its claim on reserved seats for women and minorities in the national and provincial assemblies after the general election held on February 8.

The ECP said that reserved seats cannot be allocated to the SIC, which is backed by 71-year-old Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), as the party failed to submit the list of nominees for the reserved seats by the deadline of December 24.

The ECP added that as per the SIC constitution, a non-Muslim person cannot be a part of the party, which is unconstitutional.

On Monday, CJP Isa said unless the Supreme Court was seized with a particular case regarding actual rigging in elections at the lower level, the apex court could not review the conduct of the elections.

“Unfortunately, we go to the minutest of details as if we are sitting as an appellate court of ECP,” the CJP regretted.

The chief justice further said that not one election in the country has ever been accepted or got popular approval since the losing parties have always painted elections as sham or riddled with rigging.

Unlike judges, who were appointed by the Jud­icial Commission of Pakistan, the CJP said, the heads of the ruling and opposition parties in Parliament appoint the chief election commissioner after consultations.

“We may have differences with the conduct of the commission, but we will interfere only when ECP deviates from the Constitution and the law,” the CJP emphasised.

He added that the Constitution was wri­tten for the people of Pakistan and not for lawyers or judges.

On June 4, a Supreme Court judge highlighted the "legal mistakes" by the election authorities that had forced the candidates of Imran Khan's PTI to field its candidates to contest the February 8 election as independents.

There are 70 reserved seats in the National Assembly and another 156 in the four provincial assemblies and the SIC was not given any seat as it had not contested the election.

The party gained strength when PTI-backed independently elected candidates joined it after the elections.

The reserved seats are allotted to winning parties based on proportional representations in the respective assemblies but the SIC plea was rejected by the ECP and also by the Peshawar High Court, and subsequently, the party challenged it in the Supreme Court.

Despite independent candidates backed by Khan's PTI winning the maximum number of seats in the National Assembly, a post-poll deal between former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and former foreign minister Bilawal Zardari-Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party allowed them to form a federal government.

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Published 02 July 2024, 10:37 IST

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