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Senate Polls postponed in KP owing to delay of oaths of reserved seats

Peshawar: Polling in the senate elections on vacant seats did not begin in KP at 9 am as scheduled and around two hours later, was postponed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) “on account of delay of oaths of reserved seats”.

KP election commissioner Shamshad Khan reached the assembly and sought a list of the sworn-in MPAs from the assembly staff. At the same time, the opposition petitioned the ECP to postpone the Senate elections there.

Subsequently, the ECP issued a notification of the poll postponement, which referred to its March order wherein it had rejected a petition filed by the Sunni Ittehad Council — the new face of the PTI — seeking the allocation of reserved seats.

Recalling that the Peshawar High Court (PHC) had upheld its decision, the ECP noted that “no arrangement for oath was made”. It added that the RO for the Senate polls informed the electoral watchdog today that assembly speaker Babar Saleem Swati had still “not arranged oath”.

“The commission is of the considered view that the standards of honesty, justness and fairness of election as provided in Article 218(3) of the Constitution cannot be fulfilled due to non-administration of oath to elected members and which amounts to disenfranchisement of lawful voters and denial of level playing field to the voters,” the ECP said.

Stating that the electoral college was “incomplete”, the ECP postponed the elections till the administration of oaths to the MPAs-elect on reserved seats under Article 218(3) of the Constitution read with sections 4(1), 8(c) and 128 of the Elections Act, 2017.

Last week, the ECP had hinted at postponing the Senate elections for KP if Swati kept on delaying their oath-taking. The speaker had filed a review petition yesterday against the PHC order wherein it had directed him to administer oaths to 25 opposition MPAs elected to reserved seats.

Meanwhile, KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur vowed that he would not let “illegal people” take oath — referring to the MPAs-elect belonging to the opposition parties — and vowed to “go to the very end” for that.

Speaking to media in Peshawar, he insisted the opposition was “violating the Constitution continuously”. Lamenting that reserved seats were “snatched” from the SIC, the PTI stalwart vowed that his party would “take back our right”.

Gandapur further said that the PTI would summon its parliamentary meeting and pass a resolution on the matter.

On the other hand, KP Opposition Leader Dr Ibadullah Khan assailed the Swati and CM Gandapur for becoming “tigers” of former premier Imran Khan instead of fulfilling their duties.

The PML-N leader termed it “unfortunate” that Senate elections could not be held in KP and said the provincial government did not follow court orders, the ECP, the Constitution or the law but only the “directives” given by Imran.

Speaker Swati said that the opposition parties had not presented the “correct facts” before the PHC, adding that they had said an assembly session had been summoned when it had not been.

He reiterated that he could not administer the oaths as ordered by the PHC as a session of the House had not been summoned. Swati said his review petition sought “further directives and clarification” on the matter and that he would follow what the PHC orders.

Later in the day, opposition members filed a petition in the PHC seeking contempt of court proceedings against speaker Swati and KP Deputy Speaker Suraiya Bibi for not implementing its order of administering oaths to MPAs-elect on reserved seats.

The petitioners included PPP’s Shazia Tehmas Khan, Faiza Malik and PML-N’s Shazia Jadoon and Amina Sardar. Filed through Advocate Amir Javed and Saqib Raza, the plea named Swati and Suraiya as respondents in the case.

It urged the court to initiate contempt proceedings against the two, hand them punishment under the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003 or any other law in the field and convict them under the same.