ISLAMABAD, April 7: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Sunday sealed the fate of a sitting senator and 10 former lawmakers found to be possessing fake academic degrees.

The commission decided to withdraw notification of their victory in the 2008 elections and asked the sessions courts concerned to initiate criminal proceedings against them.

The disqualified legislators are: Mir Israrullah Zehri, a former federal minister and sitting senator, former senators Mohabat Khan Marri and Rehana Yahya Baloch, and former members of provincial assemblies Mir Nadir Magsi, Nawabzada Tariq Magsi, Samina Khawar Hayat, Seemal Kamran, Shumaila Rana, Shabina Khan, Rana Ijaz Ahmad Noon and Bashir Ahmad Khan.

The decision coincided with the completion of scrutiny of over 24,000 nomination papers for the National and provincial assemblies across the country.

This brought the second phase of the electoral process to a close, the first being the filing of papers.

A committee, headed by an ECP official, had heard more than two years ago cases against over 60 lawmakers found by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to be possessing dodgy degrees.

Cases against 30 of them had been referred to sessions courts for trial after the charge against them was proved. Twenty-seven had been given clean chits and cases against them had been closed on one or the other ground.

The Supreme Court recently directed the ECP to review all the 27 cases.

Three of those in the list have died and 15 out of the remaining 24 were heard by the commission on Friday and Saturday.

In the case of Mukesh Kumar Chawla, a former MPA, an earlier decision of the commission was maintained. Proceedings against a former member of Balochistan Assembly (now Senator), Robina Irfan, were dropped after officials of the HEC gave written statement that her degree was genuine.

The case of former MPA Pitanbar Sewani was partly heard and adjourned for full hearing on April 11. The ECP has sought his academic record from the university and the board concerned.

The case of Senator Nawabzada Muhammad Akbar is being heard.

Cases against the remaining nine former lawmakers have not been taken up by the ECP because the HEC in its subsequent reports had declared their degrees as genuine.

SCRUTINY OF PAPERS: The ECP sent last batch of around 1,500 nomination forms to returning officers (ROs) by (Sunday) noon after preliminary verification by concerned agencies, according to an official of the commission. Similar number of forms had been sent to the ROs on Saturday, he told Dawn.

The official said the staff of the commission, Federal Board of Revenue, State Bank, National Accountability Bureau and National Database Registration Authority worked day and night to accomplish the gigantic task in time.

He said critical data about financial credentials of various candidates --- including defaults on loan, utility bills and government dues, tax evasion, loan write-offs and criminal record --- enabled the ROs to easily decide on acceptance or rejection of nomination papers.

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