Baldev Kumar. — File Photo
Baldev Kumar. — File Photo

PESHAWAR: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday notified Baldev Kumar, the alleged killer of MPA Sardar Soran Singh, as returned candidate on the seat reserved for non-Muslims in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.

However, talking to Dawn spokesperson for the provincial government Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani said that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led provincial government was determined to use all ways and means to stop the entry of Baldev Kumar in the assembly and his oath-taking.

“The Election Commission of Pakistan is pleased to declare Mr Baldev Kumar s/o Nanak Chand, a resident of Zamankhel, Barikot, Swat, belonging to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, as returned candidate on the seat reserved for non-Muslims in the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” reads the notification issued on Tuesday.

MPA Soran Singh, a special assistant to the chief minister on minority affairs, was gunned down near his house in Pir Baba area of Buner district on April 23, 2016. The police had arrested Mr Kumar and two others in connection with the killing within 24 hours of the incident and all the accused are still in jail.

After the 2013 general elections, the PTI had submitted to the ECP the list of candidates for seats reserved for non-Muslims in the house with Soran Singh being its first priority and Baldev Kumar the second.

After the arrest of Mr Kumar and two other persons, the police officials at a press conference had alleged that Kumar wanted to become MPA and that was why he killed Mr Singh.

Mushtaq Ghani, who is also adviser to the chief minister on information department, told this correspondent that it was unfortunate that the ECP had notified Kumar as returned candidate.

“The KP government has requested the ECP several times to withhold the notification of Baldev Kumar till the court’s verdict in Soran Singh murder case,” Mr Ghani said. Several letters have been sent to the ECP through the advocate general not to declare Kumar as MPA but to no avail, he said.

“Objections would be raised on ECP if it notifies murderers as returned candidates,” he said. Kumar would not be allowed to take oath come what may, he said.

Speaker of the provincial assembly administers the oath to the newly elected members, but in this case the Speaker has already expressed his mind of not taking oath from Baldev Kumar, he said.

The spokesperson said that the provincial government would soon call a meeting to form a strategy on the issue. “Going to court against the ECP decision is one of the options with us,” he said.

Sources in the ECP told Dawn that Baldev Kumar had been charged in the murder case, but not convicted. They said that according to the ECP rules they were bound to fill a vacant seat within 60 days.

When their attention was drawn to the provincial government’s reservation about the ECP notification, the sources said that it (provincial government) should point out any law or rules under which the notification of Kumar could be stopped.

They said that PTI MPA Ziaullah Afridi, a former minister, had also been charged in several cases, but he was still an MPA. The membership of an MPA couldn’t be abolished until conviction by a court, they said.

Kumar stood second on the priority list of PTI after Soran Singh and ECP fulfilled its constitutional responsibility, they said and added that the only legal option with the provincial government to stop him from taking oath was to challenge the ECP notification in the Peshawar High Court. Otherwise, they said, it would be a violation of the Constitution if he was forcefully stopped from attending the assembly session.

Asked about the legal and constitutional complications if Kumar was stopped from taking oath, the sources in the secretariat of provincial assembly said that they were waiting for the notification to come. They said that the notification would be put up to Speaker Asad Qaiser for further process. They said that the speaker had the powers to issue the production order of a lawmaker who was in jail.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2016

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