ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended the August 26 decision of an election tribunal to de-seat Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate Muhammad Siddique Khan Baloch and the tribunal's order of re-election in the NA-154 (Lodhran-I) constituency.
Know more: Poll tribunal deseats another PML-N lawmaker
The PML-N lawmaker who contested the 2013 poll as an independent candidate and later joined the PML-N, was deseated when the tribunal set aside his election on a petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's central organiser Jahangir Khan Tareen.
On Tuesday, a three-member bench headed by Justice Saqib Nisar took up a petition filed by Baloch in which he had asked the court to issue a stay order against the by-elections in NA-154 which were scheduled for Oct 11 this year.
Besides pointing out massive irregularities in the election, Multan tribunal judge Zahid Mehmood had disqualified Baloch for possessing bogus educational qualification and concealing facts, Dawn newspaper reported earlier.
Makhdoom Ali Khan, the counsel for PTI's Jahangir Tareen, during the hearing requested the court to not issue a stay order against the upcoming by-polls, asking for extra time to prepare for the hearing on appeal challenging the tribunal decision regarding NA-154.
Tareen's lawyer further said that the apex court's decision on the appeal challenging the tribunal decision should be issued after the by-elections.
In response, Justice Nisar maintained that hundreds of thousands of rupees go into holding elections, hence if the decision on the appeal was issued after the by-polls, it could result in a big loss to the national kitty.'
The court had no choice but to suspend the tribunal's decision if Tareen's lawyer could not present his arguments, Justice Nisar said.
After hearing all arguments, the court issued a stay order against implementation of election tribunal's decision regarding NA-154 and subsequently reinstated Baloch as an MNA.
The court issued notices to the parties and adjourned the hearing for an unlimited period.
Speaking to media after the hearing, PTI leader Jahangir Tareen said that the PML-N attempted to hide behind the Supreme Court when it anticipated a defeat.
He said that he was ready to contest the PML-N in public arena.
Baloch's election in NA-154 result was challenged by Jehangir Tareen — who had lost to Baloch — through an election petition filed under Section 52 of the Act, claiming that Baloch possessed fake secondary education, intermediate and undergraduate degrees and he committed illegal practices on polling day.
A Multan election tribunal had annulled the results of 2013 general election in NA-154, disqualifying Mr Baloch for possessing fake academic credentials.
The tribunal’s detailed judgment says the National Database and Registration Authority on its direction had reported that it failed to authenticate thumb impressions of 179 voters in NA-154, Dawn newspaper reported.
According to the report, 218,056 votes polled at 290 stations were received by Nadra for verification, out of which 20,601 votes were cast with invalid Computerised National Identity Card numbers or without them.
Similarly, 121 voters were found to be out of constituency, while there were 728 duplicate votes and 587 votes were without thumb impressions, the report stated.
The Nadra report stated that there were 73,707 votes having authenticated fingerprints, while thumb impressions of only 179 votes could not be authenticated. Nadra, however, could not decipher 122,133 votes that had fingerprints of bad quality due to unavailability of proposed (magnetic) ink, besides other possibilities. However, the CNIC numbers mentioned on counterfoils of those votes were valid.
According to the ECP, Mr Baloch had bagged 86,177 votes against Mr Tareen’s 75,955 votes. There were 370,150 registered votes, of which 235,938 were polled. As many as 9,904 votes were rejected and the voting percentage was 67.4.
Siddique Khan Baloch had approached the Supreme Court against the decision of the election tribunal that declared his election void.
The appellant stated the decision of the election tribunal was unlawful and faulty as no institution declared his graduation (BA) degree as fake.
As the proceedings started, Advocate Shahzad Shaukat appeared on behalf of the appellant and said the tribunal declared degrees of Mr Baloch fake without any proof on the record.
The bench noted that the tribunal in its order wrote that Mr Baloch did his matriculation in Sindhi but he could not even speak the language.
The appellant passed his intermediate examination from Karachi and did his graduation (BA) from Balochistan, but he was unable to speak English and even Balochi language, the bench cited the tribunal’s decision.
The bench expressed its wonder when it came to know that the appellant did his matriculation at the age of 43.
Also read: PML-N’s unseated MNA denied stay by SC
The counsel argued that the degrees of the appellant were found genuine during an inspection of parliamentarians’ academic credentials carried out by High Education Commission on Supreme Court’s order.
The bench had observed that the authenticity of the appellant’s degrees appeared to be suspicious.