LAHORE, April 6: Amid controversy surrounding the inquisitive returning officers, surprise and shock has been expressed over acceptance of papers of candidates with ‘dubious credentials’.

On Saturday, the returning officer for PP-63 (Faisalabad) cleared the nomination papers of Muhammad Ajmal Asif despite a court observation about his ‘fake’ graduation degree.

Rana Muhammad Usman and two others had raised objections to his candidature, informing the RO about the Lahore High Court’s observation that his degree was fake.

“The RO’s decision was a shock for every one contesting in this constituency,” Rana Usman told Dawn. He wondered how Ajmal Asif managed to get away with a crime during scrutiny. He said former law minister Rana Sanaullah was still a ‘powerful’ man in Fasialabad division. Rana Usman said he would challenge the clearance of Ajmal’s papers by the RO in court.

PPP central executive member Rana Aftab, who contested against Ajmal in the last election on PP-63, said his (Ajmal) case was similar to that of Dasti.

Ajmal got elected on a PML-Q ticket in 2008. Later when his degree was challenged, he resigned and contested the by-poll on a PML-N ticket, showing his educational qualification as ‘literate’.

Rana Aftab said there had been a clear discrimination in this case and others like that of Dasti who has been sentenced for three years in the fake degree case.

Citing the court observation, he said: “Ajmal claims to have passed a degree equivalent to graduation (BA) from Darul Alum Mahmoodia Dhandi Azeemabad, Bannu. But this institution is not affiliated with Wafaqul Madaras, Multan. In a nutshell the document of affiliation is stated to be bogus.”

Rana Aftab has urged the Election Commission of Pakistan and the superior judiciary to take note of this.

Supreme Court lawyer Azhar Siddique told Dawn that the ROs should better focus on fake degrees, dual nationality, tax and loan defaults instead of wasting their time on testing the knowledge of the candidates during scrutiny. “It will be unfortunate if a single candidate having one of these crimes (of perjury) get away during scrutiny,” he said.

Advocate Siddique said the ECP should have given guidelines to the ROs as how to enforce articles 62 and 63 of the constitution.

Ajmal Asif told Dawn that the Supreme Court had cleared him of all the allegations levelled by his opponents. “My opponents are running mudslinging campaign but they will not succeed,” he added.

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