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ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has warned that whosoever tries to get the elections delayed beyond the constitutional limit will face high treason charges.

He was talking to reporters after attending the proceedings in an appellate tribunal at the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench on Monday.

Take a look: RO faces the music for accepting Abbasi's nomination papers

The tribunal headed by Justice Ibadur Rehman Lodhi of the LHC reserved its verdict on an application challenging the acceptance of Mr Abbasi’s nomination papers from NA-57 Murree.

Mr Abbasi is also contesting the election from NA-53 Islamabad where the returning officer (RO) has rejected his nomination papers for not mentioning in the affidavit any contribution to the constituency he was elected from.

Both tribunals will decide the fate of the former prime minister on June 27 — whether he will qualify to contest the elections from both constituencies on July 25 or otherwise.

Mr Abbasi told journalists that Nawaz Sharif was leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and the party would contest the general elections against all political parties.

He rejected the allegation of tampering with his nomination papers and said that his counsel had filled in some additional information before the returning officer. He said that several PML-N candidates were facing courts, but the election was something that had to be decided by the public.

In reply to a question about the protest in Kahuta, Mr Abbasi said that about 12 people had gathered there to protest as they were not getting Sui gas connections. “I am ready to listen to all those protesting against me.”

The former prime minister claimed that he had done development work in every area of his constituency and the people of the area were with him.

In response to a question about estranged PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, he said the decision to award tickets was made by the party leadership.

During the proceedings when Mr Abbasi stood up to argue his case, Justice Lodhi asked him to sit down, saying politicians should reply in the National Assembly. In the court, the judge remarked, there were lawyers who represented their clients.

The returning officer for NA-57 also appeared before the court.

At the last hearing on June 23, Justice Lodhi had suspended the RO for accepting incomplete nomination papers of Mr Abbasi.

The tribunal took up the appeal of Masood Ahmed Abbasi who had levelled allegations of corruption against the former premier and said the latter had compromised the national security by supporting Nawaz Sharif’s disputed interview. He also claimed that Mr Abbasi had not provided exact details of his assets and altered his nomination papers.

The counsel for the appellant alleged that Mr Abbasi had occupied the jungle adjacent to Lawrence College under the pretext of a lease. He claimed that the former premier had mentioned low value of his Islamabad property.

RO Haider Ali Zaman informed the court that he had allowed Mr Abbasi to fill a portion of his nomination papers in the court, but not issued a written order in this regard. At this, Justice Lodhi wondered how could an RO like “you conduct free and fair elections”.

The counsel for the former premier argued that his client had correctly mentioned his assets, including his stakes in Airblue, in the nomination papers.

Justice Lodhi expressed his displeasure and asked why the candidate had altered his nomination papers.

The counsel said the appellant should have objected to the nomination papers when these were submitted to the RO.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2018