ISLAMABAD: All eyes are on the Supreme Court that is scheduled to announce on Wednesday the fate of a politician from Rawalpindi, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who recently submitted his nomination papers from NA-60 and NA-62 constituencies, as a three-judge bench will decide an election appeal seeking his disqualification for life.
The SC bench comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah will decide whether to accept or reject the election appeal of Malik Shakeel Awan who had accused Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid of misdeclaring his assets in the nomination forms that he had submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the general elections in 2013.
The apex court had closed the hearing on the election dispute on March 20 after listening to both sides.
Appeal seeks his lifelong disqualification for misdeclaration of assets
Advocate Sheikh Ilyas, who represented Mr Awan in the case, had argued during the hearing that Sheikh Rashid was involved in the concealment of assets as he had shown rent from properties as his source of income and Rs2.2 million as profit from bank accounts when his bank statement reflected Rs5.3m from which Rs2.2m profit seemed not plausible.
Besides, Mr Rashid mentioned 983-kanal agricultural land in the nomination papers for the 2013 general elections while he actually owned 1,081-kanal agricultural land, the counsel said.
Similarly, he added, Sheikh Rashid showed the purchase of one-kanal land in the Bahria Gold City for over Rs10m when the booking price of the land was over Rs48m, whereas the current market price of the same land was around Rs60m.
The lawyer contended that the Representation of Peoples Act (RoPA) 1976 obligated all intending candidates to disclose their entire assets. The Panamagate verdict was the latest SC judgement over the concealment of assets in which Sheikh Rashid also was one of the petitioners.
At the hearing of the case on March 20, one of the members of the SC bench Justice Qazi Faez Isa had observed that the concept of strict liability had been settled in the Panama Papers case judgement. The judge had wondered if the principles and guidelines laid down in the verdict would also apply to other cases, including that of Mr Rashid.
Justice Isa had also observed that if the rule of strict liability was to be followed, Mr Rashid would also stand disqualified, citing that the Panama Papers case judgement neither discussed nor had any mention of accepting mistake or error.
Mr Awan, who had lost the 2013 general elections to Sheikh Rashid, had accused him of misdeclaring his assets in the nomination forms that he had submitted to the ECP from constituency NA-55. Therefore, he added, Mr Rashid should be disqualified.
While talking to Dawn, Sheikh Rashid said: “I will accept whatever the Supreme Court decides about me.” However, he added, the election plea against him had already become infructous as the assembly had completed its five-year term for which Mr Awan had sought to de-seat him.
As the deadline for filing of nomination papers for the upcoming general elections had expired on Monday, the returning officers will now remain busy in scrutinising the forms to accept or reject the nominations till June 19.
Sheikh Rashid recently filed his nomination papers for NA-60 and NA-62.
Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2018