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Another PTI legislator may face disqualification

Updated August 27, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Aug 26: Another Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) legislator may face disqualification as an election tribunal on Monday fixed August 28 for the ‘framing of issues’ against its MPA Raja Rashid Hafeez from Rawalpindi for defaulting on Rs4.8 million of the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines (SNGPL).

It may be noted that on July 18, the Supreme Court suspended the membership of MNA Ghulam Sarwar Khan of the PTI for having a bogus educational certificate. On July 29, the Lahore High Court (LHC)’s Rawalpindi bench disqualified Ayla Malik from contesting by-elections from NA-71 Mianwali, the home seat of PTI chief Imran Khan, for having a fake degree.

On May 11, Mr Hafeez won the PP-11 Rawalpindi seat bagging 44,430 votes against 43,267 of Ziaullah Shah, a candidate of the PML-N.

Mr Shah has sought disqualification of his rival, alleging that in addition to the Rs4.8 million default, Mr Hafeez had also concealed foreign currency bank accounts of his own and his spouse in his nomination papers.

The tribunal, comprising Wamiq Javed, after briefly hearing both the petitioner and the counsel of Mr Hafeez decided to ‘frame the issues’ against the MPA. After this, the tribunal will call evidence from the petitioner in support of the allegations.

‘Framing the issues’ in the civil matters is synonymous to the ‘framing of charges’ which is used in the criminal proceedings after which the court examines evidence against the accused person.

In the petition, Mr Shah alleged that his rival was not qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of the provincial assembly in terms of article 63 of the constitution, because he had defaulted on the payment of dues and utility expenses.

He also produced before the court the SNGPL documents which showed that a CNG station located in Satellite Town, Rawalpindi, was partially owned by Mr Hafeez and a sum of Rs4.8 million was recoverable from the filling station since 2011.

According to section ‘O’ of clause 1 of article 63, a person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member parliament if “he or his spouse or any of his dependents has defaulted on the payment of government dues and utility expenses, including telephone, electricity, gas and water charges in excess of ten thousands rupees, for over six months, at the time of filing of his nomination papers.”

According to the nomination papers submitted to the returning officer before the May 11 elections, Mr Hafeez claimed the ownership of the defaulted premises, said the petition.

It requested the tribunal to declare Mr Hafeez as disqualified and pass an order for declaring the petitioner as a member of the Punjab Assembly from the constituency.

Mr Hafeez, in his reply submitted to the tribunal, however, denied the allegations.

He claimed that the election petition was time-barred as under the law it could only be filed within 45 days of the publication of the official gazette.

The reply said it was not the mandate of the petitioner to obtain the bank statement of the spouse of the winning candidate; therefore, it could not be used against the lawmaker.

According to the reply, Mr Hafeez was a partner of the defaulted CNG station and after being disassociated himself from the business had converted the premises into a commercial plaza.

He said a civil suit related to the defaulted payment was also pending before a court in Rawalpindi.

It requested the tribunal to dismiss the petition as there was nothing against Mr Hafeez in the petition.

The tribunal will take up the matter again on August 28.