PESHAWAR, April 3: The Peshawar district and sessions judge on Wednesday reserved its judgment on an Election Commission of Pakistan petition, which charged former provincial minister Syed Aqil Shah with submitting fake graduation degree to contest the 2008 elections.

After completion of arguments by the lawyers for Mr Shah and ECP, Judge Shehbar Khan announced he would give the verdict today (Thursday).

The district and sessions judge had indicted Mr Aqil on Nov 1, 2012, on the complaint of the regional election commissioner (REC), who said a case of the commission of corrupt practice had prima facie been made out against Mr Aqil and therefore, action be taken against him in accordance with law.

Mr Shah had pleaded not guilty and claimed that he had submitted only one degree issued by American International College, Lahore with his nomination papers and had never submitted any other degree or documents.

He added that he had instituted a civil suit against American International College, Lahore that had been pending with the court of the senior civil judge, Lahore.

If convicted, the minister could be sentenced up to three years imprisonment.

Abdul Lateef Afridi and Aamir Jawed, lawyers for Mr Shah, raised preliminary objection against the complaint, saying the decision for sending the complaint was taken by two ECP members, whereas under the law decisions had to be taken by majority of the members which were three.

They argued that Mr Shah had done his BBA from American International College, which was an old institution set up in 1994.

The lawyers said Mr Shah was not aware about the fact that the said institute was non-chartered and its degree was not recognised by the Higher Education Commission.

When the bench inquired about other two degrees purportedly submitted by the defendant to ECP, which were later on found to be faked, the lawyer contended that the said degrees had never been submitted by him.

They argued that the onus of proving that Mr Shah had submitted those two degrees was on ECP and not on the defendant.

The REC said in the complaint that the bachelor’s degree of the accused issued by the University of Punjab on Oct 15, 2002, was scrutinised by Higher Education Commission (HEC) and was found fake on Aug 5, 2010. Later, the accused allegedly produced a copy of the transcript of BA mark sheet issued on March 3, 2007 by Newports Institute of Communication and Economics, Karachi.

He also submitted an affidavit wherein he disowned the BA degree from University of Punjab and claimed that he had attached copy of the said marks sheet with his nomination paper. He said the copy was also sent to HEC for verification, but it was informed that the said marks sheet was not issued by them.

Meanwhile, in Sept 2011 the accused produced a BBA degree issued by the American International College Lahore, which was sent to HEC for verification and according to HEC the said institute was non-chartered and the degree issued by it was not recognised by HEC.

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