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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday declared PML-N's Sheikh Mohammad Akram as returned candidate from NA-89 Jhang, after he was unseated by an election tribunal on April 9, 2014, which had declared his opponent, Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, as the returned candidate from the constituency.

A three-member bench headed by Justice Saqib Nisar heard the case and announced its verdict on a petition submitted by Akram in 2014 following his disqualification by an election tribunal in April 2014. The tribunal had declared runner-up candidate Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat elected.

The court also declared the decision of election tribunal as null and void.

Earlier in December 2015, the apex court while reserving its verdict on the petition had suspended the decision of the election tribunal, which had declared the runners up Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi as successful candidate from the constituency.

Ludhianvi, the head of the proscribed Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), and Akram contested May 11, 2013 polls on the National Assembly seat NA-89 (Jhang).

“The judgment is reserved,” Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had announced in December last year, after conducting an extensive hearing. Both Ludhianvi and his opponent’s son Sheikh Waqqas Akram, were present in court along with their supporters. Ludhianvi was represented by senior counsel Tariq Mehmood, while Makhdoom Ali Khan was the counsel for Mr Akram.

Mr Akram had contested the election and won the NA-89 seat in place of his son, Sheikh Waqas Akram, who had been mired in legal proceedings related to a fake degree charge.

The Jhang constituency has always considered a hotbed of sectarian strife. It was won by the founder of the now-outlawed Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, in the 1988 general elections.In 2002, Maulana Azam Tariq – who was the head of the SSP at the time – won the elections on an independent ticket while in prison, defeating Dr Tahirul Qadri and Sheikh Waqas – who was contesting from the platform of the National Alliance.

Maulana Azam Tariq was later killed in Islamabad and Sheikh Waqas was able to win the seat in the subsequent by-election by defeating the slain SSP leader’s brother, Maulana Alam Tariq.

In the 2008 general elections, NA-89 was contested between Mr Ludhianvi as an independent candidate and Sheikh Waqas on a PML-Q ticket. This time, Mr Akram defeated Ludhianvi, securing, 51,976 votes against Ludhianvi’s 45,216.

In the 2013 elections, the petition argued that the tribunal had disqualified Sheikh Akram on two grounds: that the CNIC number of his seconder was incorrect, and that the candidate did not disclose that a criminal case had been pending against him.

These grounds, the petition argued, were based on a misreading of the record and relevant legal provisions as there was no violation of any election rules to justify the tribunal’s decision to unseat Sheikh Akram.