PML-N’s top brass ‘cleared’ in election scrutiny phase

Published December 27, 2023
This combo photo shows PML-N Supremo Nawaz Sharif (right), PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif (middle) and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz. — Photos AFP/DawnNewsTV
This combo photo shows PML-N Supremo Nawaz Sharif (right), PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif (middle) and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz. — Photos AFP/DawnNewsTV

• Nawaz, Shehbaz, Maryam, Sana among candidates awaiting final approval
• PTI alleges obstacles; Salman Akram Raja prevented from entering RO office

LAHORE: With the initial approval of nomination papers for several political leaders, including PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif, by respective returning officers, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is progressing towards issuing the final list of candidates eligible to contest the coming general elections.

The initial clearance was also granted on Tuesday to other notable leaders, including Maryam Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif, Rana Sanaullah, Hamza Shahbaz, Bilal Yaseen, Liaqat Baloch, Ahmad Salman Baloch, Marriyum Aurangzeb, Hina Rabbani Khar, Shaista Pervaiz Malik, and Mr Sanaullah’s son-in-law Ahmad Shehryar.

Sources said that the returning officers (ROs) were rigorously conducting the scrutiny process, calling candidates individually or through their representatives. This process is expected to conclude by the Dec 30 deadline.

There is also speculation that returning officers are coordinating with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to verify candidates’ financial integrity before finalising nominations.

“They (the ROs) are terming the completion of scrutiny process as ‘initial clearance’, telling candidates about the issuance of final lists after Dec 30,” said a source.

“It seems that they are seeking clearance from NAB or FBR so as to ascertain whether the candidates are involved in any financial wrongdoings or failed to clear any major government dues (tax, etc.),” he added.

However, the ECP has dismissed these claims. In a press release, it affirmed that the final list of eligible candidates would be issued after the entire scrutiny process concludes on Dec 30. The Punjab ECP spokesperson was unavailable for comment.

Mr Yaseen, a former Punjab minister, claimed that the nomination papers of the PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif had been approved after no objections were raised.

PTI raises concerns amid scrutiny

Meanwhile, the ECP’s scrutiny of nomination papers for the elections has been met with increasing complaints from the PTI, highlighting obstacles, arrests, and threats faced by candidates, intensifying pressure on the election oversight body and the administration.

Salman Akram Raja, a prominent lawyer, was among the first to voice concerns on Tuesday. “Once again blocked by the police from entering the RO’s office for scrutiny of the nomination papers of Mian Mahmood Rashid and his daughter. Mian (Mahmood Rashid) sb is in prison. His daughter is not wanted in any case. Concerned officials beg me to understand the coercion they are under,” he said in a post on X, formerly called Twitter.

He later reported to have been given access to the office: “After my tweets and other social media postings today our situation was taken note of by the civil admin and police cordon was lifted. Proposers and seconders were able to appear in the scrutiny process. Grateful to admin for its courage in doing the right thing.”

Following Mr Raja, Zartaj Gul, a former PTI federal minister, reported that her seconder and proposer, both women, were arrested at the DG Khan returning officer’s office.

“After their arrest, my lawyer was picked up as well. But this reign of terror would not deter us. If I beat the PML-N man by 37,000 votes last time, he will be beaten by 137,000 votes this time,” Ms Gul said.

Akmal Khan Bari, PTI’s senior vice president for central Punjab, also uploaded a clip, saying that he has been released and pledged to continue to struggle under the leadership of Imran Khan. “The fascist rulers, who are not allowing us to file our papers, will be given a befitting replay on Feb 8,” he said.

The filing of nomination papers, which concluded on Sunday, was marred by social media allegations of pre-poll rigging by the PTI. The party had accused police of snatching their candidates’ nomination papers and raiding their homes.

Party supporters continuously shared instances and video clips of harassment of their candidates. Party leader Barrister Gohar Khan has taken legal action based on these allegations and shared evidence.

However, despite these alleged obstacles, all prominent PTI candidates in Lahore, including Imran Khan, Dr Yasmin Rashid, Hammad Azhar, Ijaz Chaudhry, Sardar Azeemullah Khan, Salman Akram Raja, Shafqat Mahmood, Sardar Lateef Khan Khosa, Malik Karamat Khokhar, Sanam Javed Khan and Ghulam Mohiuddin Dewan, successfully filed their nomination papers.

Mr Azhar and Mr Raja confirmed that their papers underwent scrutiny and were accepted on Monday.

Similarly, all known candidates for the provincial assembly were also able to submit their nominations, including Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed, Mian Aslam Iqbal, Mian Muhammad Azhar, Yasir Gillani, Sheikh Imtiaz Mahmood, Hafiz Farhat Abbas, Khalid Mahmood Gujjar, Malik Zaheer Abbas and Zubair Khan Niazi.

Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2023

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