PTI ‘merges’ with seatless party for three assemblies

• Allies itself with Sunni Ittehad Council for Centre, Punjab and KP
• Party delegation calls on JUI-S leadership to seek ‘moral support’ for anti-rigging protests

ISLAMABAD: The PTI on Monday sealed its alliance with the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) in a bid to claim its share of reserved seats in the national, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies, while a delegation of PTI leaders called on the leadership of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-Sheerani) in Islamabad to seek their support for potential street protests.

Later on Monday, the SIC wrote to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to indicate that 50 PTI-backed independents had joined their party.

The formal announcement of the merger came a day after an understanding was reached between the two in a meeting on Sunday, which was also attended by the Majlis-i-Wahdatul Musl­imeen.

Interes­tingly, the SIC does not have a single seat in parliament and its head, Sahibzada Muhammad Hamid Raza, was elected as an independent from Faisalabad.

According to an ECP document, the Sunni Ittehad Council is enlisted with the ECP and Sahibzada Muhammad Hamid Raza is the party head. However, the party does not have a seat in the Centre or provinces.

Advocate Jawadul Hasan Kazmi, Hamid Raza’s lawyer who filed the SIC’s documents with the ECP, told Dawn that Hamid Raza won the election from NA-104 (Faisalabad) as an independent candidate. “After winning the election, Mr Raza has given a formal notice [to ECP] to consider him as a member of the SIC as the party is enlisted with the ECP,” he said. Advocate Kazmi said that, according to his information, the SIC did not win any other seat in the National Assembly.

“However, it is the right of the candidates to join any enlisted party within 72 hours after the victory notification, so Sahibzada Muhammad Hamid Raza will join the SIC and the PTI will also get the reserved seats,” he claimed.

It is worth mentioning that last week PTI decided to join the MWM but the merger did not materialise due to some reasons. PTI officials had opined that the candidate of the MWM in Punjab had contested the election as an independent candidate, which could diminish the chances of the PTI to claim its seats in the Punjab Assembly by joining the MWM.

Against this background, the PTI legal wizards huddled to find a way out of this impasse. An insider said the legal team had discussed this issue in detail and reached a conclusion that the PTI-backed independents could join any political party registered with the ECP. “Once our members join the SIC, there will be around 100 members of the SIC in the National Assembly and they will have a constitutional right to claim reserved seats,” he said.

Formal announcement

Earlier in the day, PTI leader Barrister Gohar Khan announced that PTI-affiliated independent candidates would formally join the SIC in the National Assembly as well as in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He announced this while addressing a press conference along with Omar Ayub, MWM Secretary General Allama Raja Nasir Abbas, SIC head Hamid Raza, and PTI spokesperson Raoof Hasan.

Gohar Khan announced the plan to submit applications for reserved seats in the ECP. “Our candidates have submitted their affidavits with us and with their consent, we are announcing that PTI-supported independents are joining the SIC,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Hamid Raza Khan and Allama Nasir Abbas commended PTI for contesting elections despite all odds and winning the elections without the “bat” symbol. Both the leaders have said that their alliance with PTI was ‘unconditional’. They said they would support the PTI unconditionally.

‘No legal value’

Reacting to media reports on PTI’s leadership’s alliance with SIC, PTI’s founding member Akbar S. Babar said the alliance has no legal effect nor will it have any bearing on the distribution of reserved seats in parliament.

He said the reported alliance was a political “fraud” to circumvent the legal system that will open a Pandora’s box on the legal status of the PTI as a political party.

Mr Babar said a leadership that was legally defunct as a consequence of ECP’s order of December 22, 2023, which declared the intra-party elections of the PTI void. The PTI cannot legally enter into any alliance with any other party, he said.

Meeting with JUI-S

Separately, a delegation of the PTI called on the JUI-S leaders to seek their “moral support during their anticipated agitation” on the streets. The PTI delegation led by Asad Qaiser, Omar Ayub, and Barrister Gohar Ali Khan went to the party office in Sector F-7 and met the chief of JUI-S chief Maulana Gul Naseeb Khan. The two sides discussed the political situation of the country and expressed concerns over the election results. JUI-S does not hold a single seat in any assembly, but the party has been in touch with the PTI since May 2022.

After the meeting, Maulana Naseeb Khan announced that both parties were united over the political issues faced by the country. PTI leader Omar Ayub said that the association with the JUI-S had always been cordial and supportive. He added that would only be possible when there was “a real elected prime minister in power” and claimed that the PTI had emerged victorious with 180 seats.

While responding to a query about a judicial investigation into the statement made by the former commissioner of Rawalpindi, Mr Ayub said that the chief justice himself should not be a part of the judicial investigation. A few days ago, the PTI had met Maulana Fazlur Rehman – archrival of Maulana Sheerani – and sought his support in launching a protest drive against the alleged rigging in the elections.

PTI core committee

Meanwhile PTI Core Committee on Monday expressed concerns over the threats to the life of PTI founding chairman Imran Khan especially his wife Bushra Bibi during incarceration.

The Committee said that Bushra Bibi had been kept at Bani Gala against her will as she had already moved the court to transfer her to the Adiala prison. The PTI alleged she was being given “substandard, harmful, and poisonous food”.

They also denounced the fresh spate of enforced disappearances of PTI successful candidates across the country, including retired brigadier Aslam Ghumman and Ahmar Rashid Bhatti, who were allegedly being coerced to quit PTI. The participants also demanded that chief secretaries and police chiefs of Punjab and Sindh be removed forthwith.

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