‘Reserved seats deprive minorities of rights’

Published: May 27, 2013
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Petition calls the selection of representatives a remnant of a dictator’s mutilation of the Constitution.  PHOTO: FILE

Petition calls the selection of representatives a remnant of a dictator’s mutilation of the Constitution. PHOTO: FILE

The separate electorates and reserved seats for minorities and women continued to be criticised.

According to Article 51-2A, 10 seats in the National Assembly are reserved for minorities, four of which are for Christians, four for Hindus, one for Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis and one for Ahmadis.

Ahmadis have boycotted the elections. Several Christian groups have also protested the ‘selection’ of representatives to the National Assembly.

A petition filed in the Lahore High Court by a human rights organisation, challenging the relevant constitutional clause remains pending. It calls the selection of representatives a remnant of a dictator’s mutilation of the Constitution.

Article 51-2A (e) of the constitution stipulates that members against the seats reserved for non-Muslims shall be elected in accordance with law through proportional representation system of political parties’ lists of candidates on the basis of number of general seats won by each political party in the National Assembly. The clause was incorporated in the Constitution through the Legal Framework Order issued by former president Pervez Musharraf.

Another petition pending in the LHC also challenges this constitutional provision. A petition filed by Advocate Tariq Aziz Malik submits that Article-226 states that members of the parliament (MP) should be elected through secret ballot. However, Article-51 states the opposite, nullifying Article-226.

Human Liberation Commission Pakistan Chairman Aslam Pervez Sahotra has submitted that minorities were deprived of their right to elect their representatives. MPs were selected by the leaders of political parties regardless of whether they had a mandate from members of their community, he said.

This was an infringement of the fundamental right to pick one’s representatives, he said. Minorities could not vote in their own representatives but had to vote for Muslim candidates instead.

MQM

Two petitions filed against the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) were heard last week.

Petitioner Advocate Fayyaz Ahmed Mehr prayed the court for legal action against Altaf Hussain for allegedly speaking against the ideology of Pakistan in his speech on May 12.

A petition filed by Barrister Zafarullah Khan before the Supreme Court cites the Political Parties Order 2002 states that subject to the provisions of the Order, it shall be lawful for anybody of individuals or association of citizens to form, organise, continue or set-up a political party. Hussain, Khan submitted, was not a citizen of Pakistan and therefore could not head a political party. He said according to the provisions of section 5(1), Chapter II of the Political Parties Order 2002, Hussain could not serve as an office bearer of any political party in Pakistan as he was not qualified to be a member of the Parliament.

Several jurists believe that the cases could spell trouble for the MQM.

Pakistan Railways

Last week the LHC was informed that the Railways had ended an agreement to import locomotives from a Chinese company that it had blacklisted. The Railways had already paid the company a Rs16 billion advance on the directions of former railways minister Ghulam Ahmad Bilour.

The chief justice directed Railways to apprise the court of the consequences of terminating the agreement at the next hearing.

Inauguration

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial laid the foundation stone of the Punjab Judicial Academy near Kala Shah Kaku Interchange last week. The academy’s previous premises at the advocate general’s office will now be used by the LHC.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2013.

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