ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) on Thursday filed a disqualification reference with the Election Commission of Pakistan against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The reference filed by PAT lawyer Ishtiaq A.Chaudhry is the third in a row as the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Pakistan Peoples Party have already filed references alleging that the prime minister concealed assets and he should therefore be disqualified.

In the PAT reference available with Dawn, it is alleged that the Panama Papers proved that Mr Sharif while submitting his nomination papers for the 2013 general elections had wilfully concealed not only his assets but also the assets and liabilities of his family members, particularly his daughter Maryam Safdar, who is admittedly a dependant of Mr Sharif.

It is stated that concealment of assets by a candidate or by his spouse or by any of his dependent is a violation of the law and resultantly the candidate is disqualified from being a member of parliament under Section 99 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1976, and Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.

Advocate Chaudhry has claimed that the prime minister in his nomination papers mentioned Maryam Safdar as his dependant. However as per the admission of Hussain Nawaz (son of Mr Sharif) in a TV interview, Ms Safdar was the sole owner of companies but her companies were not mentioned.

Ms Safdar signed papers to secure loans from foreign banks. However, no liability was shown by Mr Sharif though she was declared a dependant.

It is prayed in the reference that Mr Sharif may be disqualified from holding his seat in parliament and holding the office of the prime minister. Moreover, it is requested that the prime minister is restrained from discharging his duty during the pendency of the reference.

Sources in the ECP say that all the references will be heard and decided after the appointment of ECP members and will remain pending so long as the commission is non-functional. They also point out that the ECP cannot directly disqualify any lawmaker; it can either confirm a disqualification reference sent by the presiding officer of the respective house or issue a notification after the seat becomes vacant after conviction or disqualification of a person facing some specific charge covered by corrupt practices.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2016

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