ECP delays issuing notification for reserved seats in Punjab Assembly

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The Election Commission of Pakistan on Thursday ruled that the allocation of reserved seats including three women and two minorities would be notified after the conclusion of the by-election for 20 vacant Punjab Assembly seats.

The seats fell vacant after the ECP had de-notified 20 PTI dissident MPAs who had voted for PML-N’s Hamza Shahbaz against their party’s line during the Punjab chief minister’s election last month.

The reserved seats are allocated to parties on the basis of the total number of general seats secured by each political party in the provincial assembly.

In a bid to secure the reserved seats, the PTI had asked the ECP to issue the notification based on the current numbers in the Punjab Assembly, but the election body ruled that it would notify the allocation of reserved seats once the by-election takes place and the new party position is formed.

ECP’s five-member bench had reserved the verdict earlier Thursday on the directions of the Lahore High Court which the PTI had moved last week for notifying new MPAs on reserved seats in the assembly.

During the hearing, PTI’s counsel Faisal Chaudhry argued that if a lawmaker is disqualified under Article 63(A) of the Constitution, it is obligatory to notify another person on the reserved seat from the same party.

He maintained that the ECP has to issue a notification “immediately” in this regard under Article-224(6), adding that the PML-N in Punjab does not have the majority and, therefore, does not deserve to rule.

“In its plea, the PML-N misinterpreted the Constitution,” the PTI’s lawyer argued, adding that nominations are made on the reserved seats under Article 106.

Faisal Chaudhry argued that no change could be made in the number of reserved seats under Section 104 of the Election Act, 2017.

For his part, PML-N’s lawyer Khalid Ishaq contended that the Election Commission should notify new MPAs following the current proportion in the Punjab Assembly. “Article 226 can be read in conjunction with Article 106,” he said, citing that no clause can be read separately.

The PML-N’s lawyer highlighted that the electoral college is not complete for reserved seats hence Article 226 is not applicable. “The Election Commission would have to consider the principle of proportional representation while nominating MPAs,” he said.