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ISLAMABAD: An Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) appellate tribunal on Tuesday permitted former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and estranged Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Ayesha Gulalai to contest the upcoming election from Islamabad’s NA-53 constituency.

The tribunal’s presiding officer Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani overturned the rejection of their nomination papers by the returning officer under section 62(9)(d)(ii) of the Elections Act, which states that the returning officer “shall not reject a nomination paper on the ground of any defect which is not of a substantial nature”.

Justice Kayani said the returning officer should not have rejected the papers for minor defects.

NAB’s arrest of PML-N candidate ‘pre-poll rigging’, former PM says

The aforementioned section of the act reads: “The returning officer shall not reject a nomination paper on the ground of any defect which is not of a substantial nature and may allow any such defect to be remedied forthwith, including an error in regard to the name, serial number in the electoral roll or other particulars of the candidate or his proposer or seconder so as to bring them in conformity with the corresponding entries in the electoral roll.”

Justice Kayani also put off hearing the appeal filed by PTI Chairman Imran Khan against the rejection of his papers for the same constituency until today (Wednesday).

The nominations of all three candidates were rejected by NA-53 returning officer Additional District and Sessions Judge Mohammad Adnan Khan because none of them had filled out Clause N, which asks candidates about their contributions to their previous constituencies.

Rejecting Mr Abbasi’s papers, the returning officer stated: “While scrutinizing the affidavit of candidate Shahid, I found a clause-N of the affidavit made applicable for a class of candidates who served as elected members from any national and/or provincial assemblies and require information of their constituencies in as much as the detailed facts/instances of their important contributions for the benefit of their said constituencies, like him from NA-36 and NA 50 in year 1988, 1990, 1993, 1997, 2008, 2013.

“These important contributions for the voters benefit of said constituencies may have included their rights under part-II of the Constitution of 1973 and/are fund based. The requirement of this clause in the affidavit of candidate Shahid despite being wholly applicable is not answered/completed as the same is filled in with the personal qualities of candidate Shahid such as; (1) his integrity (2) lessening of his assets; (3) he, a tax payer; (4) does not change loyalties.”

Mr Abbasi had contended that the officer’s order was against the law and liable to be set aside under the Elections Act.

In her appeal, Ms Gulalai had said she was an MNA on a reserved seat for women from 2013 to 2018, and has now launched her own political party Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-Gulalai (PTI-G).

She said her nomination papers were scrutinised on June 18 and rejected on June 19 on unfounded, baseless and unwarranted grounds.

Former PM criticises NAB

Speaking to the press outside the IHC after attending the tribunal, Mr Abbasi criticised the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for arresting Qamarul Islam Raja, PML-N’s candidate from NA-59.

Mr Raja was running against estranged PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

The former prime minister called the move “pre-poll rigging”, saying that NAB had suddenly woken up and arrested a candidate when the elections were less than a month away.

He also expressed a lack of confidence in the accountability court trying former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, telling reporters: “I am not sure NAB’s court will deliver justice to Nawaz Sharif.”

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2018