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ISLAMABAD: As scrutiny of nomination papers to exclude ineligible candidates from the election race started on Tuesday, particulars of dozens of candidates were found extremely dubious with the assistance of the State Bank of Pakistan that provided their bank details.

According to the figures released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) a day after returning officers (ROs) completed the process of receiving nomination papers from prospective candidates, 19,166 candidates are in the run for general seats in the national and provincial assemblies from across the country.

There are 5,473 candidates against 272 general seats in the National Assembly, 2,700 from Punjab and Islamabad, 1,346 from Sindh, 992 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and 435 from Balochistan.

Four assistant returning officers placed under suspension for misconduct; disciplinary action ordered

The total number of candidates for general seats in the four provincial assemblies comes to 13,693. They include 6,747 for Punjab assembly, 3,626 for Sindh assembly, 1,920 for KP assembly and 1,400 for Balochistan assembly.

In addition, political parties have submitted to the ECP priority lists containing names of 436 candidates against reserved seats for women in the National Assembly and another 1,255 against reserved seats for women in the provincial assemblies.

Likewise, the priority lists against seats reserved for minorities include names of 154 for the national and 471 for the provincial assemblies.

Online scrutiny

Meanwhile, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) during the online scrutiny process meant to assist the returning officers in taking an informed decision on nominations has found particulars of dozens of candidates to be extremely dubious. It revealed that over 100 of them were bank defaulters, a source in the ECP said.

The list of defaulters includes the names of Hina Rabbani Khar and Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, according to a report received by ECP’s scrutiny cell. The defaulters also include Ahmed Shah Khagga (PP-193), Ghulam Ahmed Shah (PP-193), Asim Irshad Khan (NA-124), Ameer Ahmed Siyal (NA-116), Khalid Masood (NA-30), Abdul Sattar Bachani and Zulfiqar Bachani (both from NA-224), Ameer Waliuddin Chishti (NA-256), Ayaz Khan (NA-257) and Changez Khan (NA-258).

Similarly, Azhar Khokhar (NA-52), Zainab Ahsan (PP-109), Umar Farooq (PP-113), Mushtaq Ahmed (PP-136), Ali Asim Shah (PP-185), Mohammad Ali Tarkai (PK-46) and Chaudhry Shakeel Gulzar (PP-66) are also among those who owe money to banks.

In addition, over 1,500 candidates who filed their nomination papers for various provincial and national assembly seats with the ECP are defaulters of Pakistan Telecommunication Limited (PTCL). The defaulters include Murad Saeed (Rs14,000), Faisal Kareem Kundi (Rs21,000), Ejaz Chaudhry (Rs33,521) and Syed Zafar Ali Shah (Rs18,000) among others. Many however wonder if the returning officer has a role to play in the cases involving default on payment to a private company.

ECP suspends four officers

In a related development, the Election Commission of Pakistan placed four assistant returning officers under suspension on the charge of misconduct and ordered disciplinary action against them under the government servants’ efficiency and disciplinary rules.

Those suspended include Abdul Rehman, superintendent local government department, Quetta (ARO, PB-26, Quetta-III), Altaf Sheikh, executive engineer buildings, Khairpur (ARO, NA-209, Khairpur-II), Ziaul Haq, assistant post master general, Sialkot (ARO, PP-40 Sialokt), and Raja Aziz, executive engineer, Wapda, Khairpur (ARO NA-210-Khairpur-III).

They have been placed under suspension initially for three months, which can be extended if required. The decision has been taken on the basis of reports received from returning officers.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2018