LAHORE, April 18: A full bench of the Lahore High Court provisionally allowed on Thursday former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to contest for the NA 51 Gujjar Khan (Rawalpindi) seat after suspending the orders of returning officer and election tribunal which had declared him ineligible.
The bench headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan and comprising Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi issued a notice to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and directed it to include the name of the former premier in the list of candidates. It observed that the interim relief given to the petitioner would be subject to the final decision on his petition.
The former prime minister was represented by a legal panel headed by Farooq H. Naek and including Sardar Latif Khan Khosa, Muhammad Ahsan Bhoon and Abid Saqi.
The returning officer had rejected the nomination papers of Raja Ashraf on April 7 and the election tribunal comprising judges of the LHC’s Rawalpindi bench dismissed his appeal against the RO’s decision on April 15.
The objection to Raja Ashraf’s candidature was filed by a former nazim of the union council of Gujjar Khan.
Mr Naek argued before the LHC bench that the decisions of the RO and the tribunal were based on surmises and contrary to the article 62 (1) (f) of the constitution.
He said the nomination papers of Raja Ashraf had been rejected on the basis of a Supreme Court judgment in the rental power projects (RPP) case and what was claimed to be a declaration issued by a single-judge bench of the Islamabad High Court.
Mr Naek said the apex court had directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to take action against those responsible for signing and executing the contracts to RPPs. He pointed out that both former ministers for water and power Liaquat Jatoi and Raja Ashraf had been made party to the proceedings before the Supreme Court, but nomination papers of Mr Jatoi had been accepted.
He said that neither any reference had been filed by NAB against the former prime minister nor any inquiry initiated. He argued that without a conviction by a court, the petitioner could not be disqualified in view of provision (1) (h) of the article 63 of the constitution.
Mr Naek said there was only an observation and not a declaration issued by the single bench of the IHC in a case between the NLC and the PWD, both government organisations. He said the litigation was between the two organisations and the petitioner (Mr Ashraf) was not a party to the proceedings before the IHC.
Even then, he said, the judge had made remarks against the former premier and also issued an order on March 28 for circulating copies of the judgment to the district returning officer and returning officer of his (Mr Ashraf) constituency as well as the people of the constituency.
Mr Naek argued that the rejection of nomination papers on the grounds of allegations amounted to usurping fundamental rights of the petitioner.
He requested the bench to set aside the impugned orders of the RO and the tribunal and allow his client to contest the election.
The bench suspended the orders and conditionally allowed Raja Ashraf to contest the election. It issued notices to the ECP and objector Irfan Aziz.
The hearing was adjourned to April 22.