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A large number of PTI supporters gathered at Jinnah Avenue during a public meeting on the last day of election campaigning. — Photo by INP
A large number of PTI supporters gathered at Jinnah Avenue during a public meeting on the last day of election campaigning. — Photo by INP
Ayla Malik stands next to PTI chief Imran Khan as he makes a speech during a rally in February. — Photo courtesy Twitter.
Ayla Malik stands next to PTI chief Imran Khan as he makes a speech during a rally in February. — Photo courtesy Twitter.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan's choice for NA-71 faces a certain by-election ban after the Election Commission and the Rawalpindi Education Board raised doubts over her high school degree.

Ayla Malik was scheduled to run in the by-elections on Imran’s home seat in Mianwali, NA-71, after Imran vacated the seat to keep his Rawalpindi seat.

Malik, who is the niece of former President Farooq Leghari, was scheduled to run for by-elections in Mianwali but her candidacy was challenged by political opponent Obaidullah Shadikhel of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

On Saturday, the election tribunal of the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi heard the arguments of Shadikhel’s counsel. He argued that Malik should be barred from contesting elections.

Rawalpindi Education Board and Election Commission also filed their replies before the tribunal, claiming that Malik was awarded no degree by the Rawalpindi Board. A Board reply stated that the degree submitted by Malik before the Election Commission was found to be of another candidate, Imdad Hussain, who had failed his intermediate examination.

The Election Tribunal reserved its ruling for July 29.

Malik comes from a long line of politicians. Besides her relation to the former president, she is the granddaughter of Nawab Malik Amir Muhammad Khan, otherwise known as the Nawab of Kalabagh. Her sister, Sumaira Malik, is an MNA for the PML-N. Earlier, Ayla Malik served as an MNA on a reserved seat from 2002-2007.

The issue of fake degrees took centre stage in Pakistani politics in recent months, after the superior courts took up several petitions against the dubious credential of parliamentarians and election candidates.

In April this year, Election Commission penalised three senators, five Punjab Assembly MPAs, two Sindh MPAs and one Balochistan MPA for holding fake degrees. . Earlier this week the Supreme Court disqualified a Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) lawmaker from Punjab Assembly, Samina Khawar Hayat, for a fake degree.

An independent MNA from Muzaffargarh, Jamshed Dasti had made headlines when he was disqualified for his fake degree – but managed to win his seat in the general elections this year after getting his ban overturned just in time from the Lahore High Court’s Multan bench.