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ISLAMABAD: In a surprise move, the appellate tribunal at the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) not only barred former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) Fawad Chaudhry from contesting elections from their native constituencies NA-57 (Murree) and NA-67 (Jhelum), but also disqualified them for life for being not honest and sagacious.

The presiding officer of the tribunal, Justice Ibadur Rehman Lodhi, also barred some other candidates from various districts from contesting the election.

In Islamabad, the tribunal headed by Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani gave PTI chief Imran Khan the go-ahead to contest elections from NA-53 Islamabad. His nomination papers had been earlier rejected for being incomplete.

Delivers similar ruling for PTI spokesperson for not being honest and sagacious; both vow to challenge disqualification

Interestingly, Justice Kayani also okayed Mr Abbasi’s nomination papers for elections in NA-53, after setting aside an order of returning officer (RO) Mohammad Adnan Khan. The RO had earlier rejected the ex-PM’s nomination papers for being incomplete.

Justice Kayani overtur­ned the RO’s decision, allowing Mr Abbasi to contest the elections. He observed that Section 62(9)(d)(ii) of the Elections Act stated that a returning officer “shall not reject a nomination paper on the ground of any defect which is not of a substantial nature”.

The same judge summoned Mr Khan in person to fill out Clause N of the nomination form, a portion of the form which asks for details of services rendered for previous constituents.

The PTI chief appeared before the tribunal early in the morning. His counsel Dr Babar Awan filled out the missing information: Mr Khan had established Shaukat Khanum Hospitals, Namal University and raised awareness about fundamental rights among citizens.

The counsel for Mr Abbasi told the appellate tribunal in Rawalpindi that no one could be declared disqualified unless there was a declaration by a court of law.

Justice Lodhi responded in the verdict on Wednesday stating: “I declare that this Tribunal constituted under the statutory provisions of a Federal Statute is a court of law and after declaring the respondent... guilty of concealment of facts and withholding complete information from his voters, is not an honest and Ameen person and after such declaration, declare him not qualified to be elected or chosen as a mem­ber of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) within the mea­ning of Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973.”

It added “I have never come across any declaration of any Court of law declaring a person, particularly [those] sitting in the corridors of power as having been hit by the disqualification clause under Article 62 and 63…..for obvious reasons that such persons having such disqualification in their profile conveniently cross the process of scrutiny at pre-poll stage by simply arguing that they cannot be held not honest and ameen in the absence of a declaration from a Court of law and once they succeeded in capturing office... they wou­ld never allow any Court of law to conclude proceeding.”

On June 23, Justice Lodhi suspended the RO for NA-57 (Murree) Haider Ali Khan for accepting incomplete nomination forms submitted by Mr Abbasi. In Wedne­s­day’s verdict, the judge stated that the suspension would continue, and direc­ted the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to appoint a new RO for NA-57. The LHC registrar was also directed to initiate proceedings against Haider Ali Khan for misconduct.

The tribunal’s order said that the nomination papers of ex PM Abbasi were challenged by Masood Ahmad Abbasi because the former PM had concealed the actual value of his assets. The appellant had also contended that there was marked difference between the two affidavits the PML-N leader had filed along with two separate nomination papers submitted on June 9 and June 11.

It said the ex PM had tampered with the contents of the affidavit by first writing ‘none’ and later noting down his shares in Air Blue and Pines Inn, Murree. The RO appeared before the tribunal and said that he had allowed the PML-N leader to correct the contents but he had not mentioned this in his order sheet.

Justice Lodhi expressed astonishment over Mr Abbasi’s declaration that his F-7/2 house in Islamabad was worth Rs300,000, even though he had mortgaged it for over Rs20m.

Legal counsel for the ex PM admitted to the discrepancy in the two affidavits but urged the court to put off the matter for the election tribunal post elections.

The tribunal headed by Justice Lodhi also rejected the nomination papers of PTI’s leader Fawad Chaudhry after Syed Fakhar Haider, a candidate from the same constituency, challenged the acceptance of his nomination. The tribunal disqualified him under 62(1)(f) which is disqualification for life.

On June 20, Justice Lodhi had rejected an identical objection plea by Fakhar Haider, saying he was not a registered voter of the constituency.

The tribunal’s order said: “A candidate...is bound to file a declaration along with his nomination papers to the effect that he has opened an exclusive account with a scheduled bank for the purpose of election expenses. The respondent candidate [Fawad] has placed a certificate of Bank Alfalah but later [the court] came to know that... the status account was dormant. No fresh account was opened in requirement of the law rather the candidate had tried to deceive the scrutiny process by submitting a dormant account. Furthermore the candidate has not provided the cost of his assets.”

The tribunal added that Mr Chaudhry’s affidavit mentioned his profession as an advocate of the Supreme Court, but in his income tax returns for the year 2017, Mr Chaudhry mentioned that his income was Rs9,600,000 and did not mention where this salary had come from. It noted that it was against the law for a lawyer to adopt any other office of profit. In the affidavit, Mr Chaudhry mentioned that in 2015, 2016 and 2017, he had travelled abroad incurring expenses of Rs3,250,000 but those expenses were not mentioned in his tax returns.

Mr Haider pointed out that Mr Chaudhry had deliberately mentioned his name as Ch Fawad Hussain in the nomination papers, whereas his name according to his CNIC is Fawad Ahmed. It added that the PTI spokesperson had mentioned agricultural income for the past three years but had not mentioned the tax paid on this income.

Separately, the tribunal rejected the nomination papers of Bilal Azhar Kayani, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s candidate for NA-66 Jelum-I. Likewise, the nomination papers of Sardar Ghulam Abbas, a PTI candidate from NA-64 Chakwal, were also rejected.

The candidates whose papers have been rejected are likely to challenge the appellate tribunal’s decision before a three member bench of the Lahore High Court.

Separately, Faheem Ahmed Siddiqi, judge of election tribunal of Sukkur, rejected the nomination papers of former provincial minister and Pakistan Peoples Party Sindh president Nisar Khuhro, the PPP’s candidate for PS-11 (Larkana) .

Moazam Abbasi, a candidate of the Grand Democratic Alliance, had filed an objection stating that Mr Khuhro not declaring his second wife or children, as well as other assets.

Mr Khuhro has announced his decision to approach the apex court against decision.

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2018