An election tribunal in Lahore dismissed on Tuesday an appeal filed by PML-N leader Pervaiz Rashid against the rejection of his Senate nomination papers by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Last week, the ECP had rejected Rashid's nomination papers. The former minister was told that he was a defaulter of the Punjab House in Islamabad and his nomination would be accepted only after he cleared the dues.
The same day, the retuning officer accepted the objection to Rashid's nomination and said that he failed to provide evidence regarding having cleared the dues.
During today's hearing, which was presided over by Justice Shahid Waheed, Rashid's lawyer said that the RO had rejected his client's papers saying that the former information minister was a defaulter of the Punjab House in Islamabad and his nomination would be accepted only after he cleared the dues.
The lawyer said that Rashid did not receive any prior notice for paying off his dues and was given one during the scrutiny process.
The judge asked the government's legal representative if the record of the Punjab House and ECP had been released to which the latter responded in the affirmative.
Rashid's lawyer added that the former lawmaker had "collected Rs9.5 million after borrowing money" but the amount was not received by the government. He said that the PML-N leader was ready to pay off all his dues and a request in this regard was submitted to the RO twice but there was no response.
The legal aide of the former minister urged the court to check the Punjab House's record to see that Rashid had not stayed in the government building. The lawyer termed Rashid's rejection as "political revenge". The judge, however, noted that Rashid had not mentioned this in his appeal.
"Pervez Rashid has contested the Senate election before as well. No one raised the issue of pending dues then," argued Rashid's legal team.
"This game [that] is being played is based on the government's maliciousness," the lawyer insisted. He further said that the courts "always allow contesting elections, after which the process of winning and losing starts".
The objector, in his arguments, said that Rashid knew that he had to pay outstanding dues but did not submit any payment. He also raised questions over the argument by Rashid's lawyer, in which the latter had denied that the PML-N leader stayed at Punjab House.
"If Pervez Rashid did not stay at the Punjab House, why is he ready to pay off the dues?" asked the objector. He added that the RO had given Rashid 48 hours to clear his dues but the former minister failed to do so.
"Where did Pervez Rashid have to submit the dues?" asked the judge.
"The money was supposed to be paid to the controller but it was not submitted," the objector responded. When the court asked Punjab House's controller, who was also present in court, about the matter he said: "I was in the hospital that day. No one contacted me or my staff."
The controller presented the record of the Punjab House as well as the audit report in court. He said that a notice regarding pending dues was sent at Rashid's DHA residence.
Advocate General (AG) of Punjab, who was also a respondent in the case, said that Rashid in his appeal had not said that he did not book a room in Punjab House.
"Pervez Rashid was not given a room on charity basis, there are charges for a room," the AG said.
The objector also brought up Ataul Haq Qasmi's controversial appointment as PTV's head. The court asked Rashid's lawyer what he had to say about Qasmi's appointment to which the latter responded that the former information minister's answer had already been submitted in the relevant court and that this matter had not come up before the RO.
After hearing both sides' arguments, the tribunal turned down Rashid's appeal.
Soon after the tribunal's decision, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz tweeted a link of the news, saying "Fixed match".
In another tweet, the former premier's daughter paid tribute to the PML-N leader, saying, "Pervaiz Rashid is not the name of an individual but of a mindset, an ideology and a shining symbol of democracy. Such symbols stay alive in any situation. He has been an asset to the party in the past and will remain an asset of not only the party but of national politics as a respected companion and a veteran soldier of democracy."
Meanwhile, Rashid while talking to reporters after the tribunal's verdict said that in 2019, a "fake register" was prepared to reflect that he owed money to Punjab House.
"I know which crime I have been punished for and I will continue to commit this crime," he told reporters.