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Battle for NA seats may continue beyond May 11

April 28, 2013

National Assembly.—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: For some candidates of major political parties in the twin cities, the fight for the National Assembly seats may not be over even after the May 11 general elections as they would still have to obtain a clean chit from different courts.

At least six candidates of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), contesting from five constituencies of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, are facing cases for alleged wrongdoings in various courts.

These candidates include former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and Faisal Sakhi Butt of the PPP, PML-N’s Mohammad Hanif Abbasi and Anjum Aqeel Khan, and Ghulam Sarwar Khan of the PTI.

The campaign of PPP candidate Zamarud Khan in NA-54 (Rawalpindi) may also be affected. Two officers of the Pakistan Baitul Maal (PBM) recently challenged his appointment as permanent patron-in-chief of the Sweet Homes (an orphanage working under PBM’s control) in the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

Raja Pervaiz Ashraf’s nomination papers had been rejected by the returning officer of NA-51 and the appellate tribunal constituted by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). However, the Lahore High Court (LHC), on April 17, conditionally allowed him to contest the elections.

The court had made adverse observations regarding the Rental Power Projects (RPPs) case and awarding of a contract for the construction of road infrastructure in his constituency. Raja Pervez is also facing a NAB reference for misusing his authority to provide undue benefits to the RPPs.

According to the RPP investigation report, Mr Ashraf had, during his tenure as minister of water and power, moved the summary for the approval of power projects in violation of procurement rules. He had also approved the increase in down payment from 7pc to 14pc to the RPPs, contrary to the agreement.

Unlike Raja Pervez Ashraf, Faisal Sakhi Butt, another PPP candidate from NA-48 Islamabad, is not facing any criminal case. He has been cited as respondent in a number of petitions filed in the IHC for alleged illegal allotments.

Mr Butt is the head of the management committee of the 72acres Gun and Country Club, while President Asif Ali Zardari is the Patron in Chief.

A Capital Development Authority (CDA) commission, headed by Justice Sardar Raza Khan, was constituted to probe corruption in the CDA and also questioned the authority of Mr Butt.

The commission observed that the Gun Club management had raised construction without the permission of the CDA, and had not paid the rent. It asked the civic body to charge the rent from the management. It also recommended that the Pakistan Sports Board take over the club’s control from the incumbent management.

Mr Butt, in order to fight a legal battle, obtained a copy of the report and his counsel, Dr Abdul Basit, requested that Mr Butt wanted to pursue the report.

In the same constituency (NA-48), Anjum Aqeel Khan of the PML-N is also facing Rs6 billion National Police Foundation land scam case.

According to the prosecution agency (Federal Investigation Agency), Aqeel’s company (Land Linkers) was chosen to procure land for the development of a housing scheme in Sector E-11, Islamabad, for the NPF.

The land procured through M/s Land Linkers was neither quantified by the previous administration of the NPF till 2010 nor had any effort been made to resolve the issues of shortage of land and rendition of accounts with the company.

Aqeel’s case is pending in the FIA’s trial court of Islamabad.

Another PML-N candidate, Mohammad Hanif Abbasi who is contesting from NA-56 against PTI chief Imran Khan, is also facing charges of misusing 500kg of a controlled chemical (ephedrine) in the Control of Narcotics Substances (CNS) court of Rawalpindi.

According to the prosecution agency Anti Narcotics Force (ANF), Abbasi’s firm (Gray’s pharmaceutical) had received a 500kg quota of ephedrine in 2010 but instead of the production of the medicine, the firm had sold it to narcotics’ smugglers and pocketed millions of rupees.

Interestingly, the ANF directorate of Rawalpindi found Mr Abbasi guilty, but ANF Karachi, headed by Brig. Wajid, cleared him in the ephedrine case.

A document available with Dawn disclosed that the ANF authorities constituted a fact-finding inquiry headed by Brig. Sardar Ahmed to ascertain the discrepancy between the investigations of Rawalpindi and Karachi directorates of the ANF.

Furthermore, because of Mr Abbasi, the ANF repatriated its force commander, Brig. Fahim Khan, to the army. Brigadier Fahim, however, expressed lack of confidence over the fact-finding inquiry and demanded judicial probe in the matter, but his request was rejected by the competent authorities.

In NA-53 Taxila, Ghulam Sarwar Khan of the PTI is contesting against PML-N stalwart Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. Sarwar is on pre-arrest interim bail, obtained from the LHC, in a fake degree case.

According to the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) (the prosecution agency), Mr Sarwar is facing charges of securing a graduation degree on the basis of a fake intermediate certificate.

It was alleged that he had obtained a duplicate diploma, originally issued to another candidate with the same name but a different surname. Mr Sarwar used the duplicate diploma to appear in the graduation examination and obtained the B.A. degree.

Commenting on this, legal expert Justice (retired) Wajihuddin Ahmed said the ECP was initially tough on the matter related to the qualification of candidates, but had later provided certain relaxations.

He added that the three-member bench constituted by the LHC was also lenient to the candidates, and people could raise objections against the candidature of any politician in the election tribunals even after the general elections.

“But it is a time consuming effort, as sometimes the decision on an election petition may even come after the dissolution of the assembly,” he said.

Justice Ahmed suggested that the ECP must ensure disposal of an election petition within 60 days, and should request the high courts and the Supreme Court for early disposal of such appeals.

However, Advocate Nasir Bhutta, former Member of the National Assembly from the PML-N, said the ECP had examined the nomination papers of the candidates in accordance with the Representation of People Act 1976.

According to him, candidates facing criminal cases would automatically be disqualified if convicted by any court of law.

“An accused remains innocent unless proved guilty,” he added.