ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has rejected a petition seeking to cancel the registration of the Pakistan Rah-i-Haq Party (PRHP), which allegedly has links with the banned outfit Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ). The commission directed the petitioner to approach the federal government.

Petitioner Gul Zohra Rizvi’s lawyer appeared before a two-member bench of the ECP headed by the Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Muhammad Raza and argued that Muavia Azam, son of Maulana Azam Tariq — leader of the now defunct Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) — has after his election to the Punjab Assembly, joined the PRHP.

Insisting that the PRHP had links with the SSP, which kept changing names after being outlawed, he argued that the registration of the party be cancelled under section 212 of the elections act.

The ECP member from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, retired Justice Irshad Qaiser, asked if according to the petitioner the PRHP was involved in acts of terrorism. The response of the petitioner’s counsel was that the flags of all those who ran in the polls under the banner of the PRHP were the same as the flags of the SSP. The petitioner claimed that Muavia Azam’s name appeared in the fourth schedule.

The commission after hearing arguments announced the verdict, rejecting the plea for cancelling the enlistment of the PRHP and directed the petitioner to approach the government.

Section 212 of the elections act, which deals with the procedure for dissolution of a political party reads “Where the Federal Government is satisfied on the basis of a reference from the Commission or information received from any other source that a political party is a foreign-aided political party or has been formed or is operating in a manner prejudicial to the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan or is indulging in terrorism, the Government shall, by a notification in the official Gazette, make such declaration.”

Under the law, within 15 days of making a declaration the government shall refer the matter to the Supreme Court. If the apex court upholds the declaration made against the political party, it shall be dissolved.

Meanwhile, the ECP reserved judgement on a petition seeking the removal of disqualified former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s name from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). The petitioner’s counsel asked the two-member bench of the ECP to form a full bench for hearing the case.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2018

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