ECP yet to ‘vacate’ NA seats won by Imran – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Despite the lapse of the constitutionally mandated 30-day period, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is yet to declare vacant six of the seven National Assembly seats won by PTI chief Imran Khan in October last year.

These by-polls were held on nine seats after the National Assembly speaker accepted the resignations of some PTI lawmakers who resigned en masse in April, following Mr Khan’s ouster as prime minister through a no-confidence vote in parliament.

When Mr Khan won the seven seats in October, he was already holding a National Assembly seat from Mianwali. He won six seats on October 16 and bagged another seat from NA-45 (Kurram) on October 30.

Mr Khan then contested eight of those vacant seats and emerged victorious on seven of them after losing one seat to PPP’s Abdul Hakeem Baloch in Karachi’s Malir area.

If PTI chief does not indicate preference within 30 days, he automatically retains only the last seat contested, i.e. NA-45 (Kurram)

Under the law, the time of one month for Mr Khan to decide which seat he wants to keep expired last week, and all seven seats, except for the last one he won from Kurram, were supposed to be declared vacant by the ECP days ago.

Although no ECP official would comment on the development, background interviews suggest that the commission — preoccupied at the moment with the question of general elections in Punjab and KP — may have forgotten to make an announcement in this regard. In fact, sources suggest that there is “no mala fide intention behind it, rather an oversight”.

Under Article 223 (1) of the constitution, no individual can hold more than one seat in any house of parliament at the same time.

The article in question states: “Nothing in clause (1) shall prevent a person from being a candidate for two or more seats at the same time, whether in the same body or in different bodies, but if he is elected to more than one seat he shall, within a period of thirty days after the declaration of the result for the last such seat, resign all but one of his seats, and if he does not so resign, all the seats to which he has been elected shall become vacant at the expiration of the said period of thirty days except the seat to which he has been elected last or, if he has been elected to more than one seat on the same day, the seat for election to which his nomination was filed last.”

On Jan 19, ECP had notified Mr Khan’s victory in seven National Assembly constituencies in by-polls held in October, taking a lenient view of the delay he incurred in submitting election expense details.

This happened at a time when Mr Khan was aiming to break his own record by contesting by-polls on all 33 National Assembly seats that fell vacant after Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf accepted the long-pending resignations of PTI lawmakers.

The notification — earlier withheld after Mr Khan failed to submit details of by-poll expenses within the stipulated time — was issued hours after the commission announced a reserved verdict condoning the delay.

Under the law, contesting candidates should submit details of election expenses to the ECP within 10 days after the polling day, and a failure may lead to disqualification. The ECP, however, is empowered to condone the delay.

A three-member ECP panel, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, had noted at the time that contesting an election was a fundamental right in terms of Article 17(2) of the Constitution and court judgements. The seven constituencies bagged by the PTI chief are: NA-22 (Mardan), NA-24 (Charsadda), NA-31 (Peshawar), NA-108 (Faisalabad), NA-118 (Nankana Sahib), NA-239 (Korangi), and NA-45 (Kurram). The ninth seat — NA-157 (Multan) — was contested by PTI’s Meher Bano Qureshi, daughter of party leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi. However, she was defeated by PPP’s Ali Musa Gilani, son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2023

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