• PTI president to contest from Punjab Assembly’s constituency PP-32
• Sanam faces Maryam, Ayaz in Lahore showdown for NA seats
• ECP told to include candidates’ names in final list, allocate symbols

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday granted permission to five key PTI candidates, including Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, to contest the upcoming general elections, over­turning rejections by returning officers, election tribunals and lower courts.

These five candidates, who will now participate in elections from different constituencies across Punjab, are Mr Elahi (PP-32, Gujrat), Sanam Javaid Khan (NA-119, NA-120 and PP-150, all in Lahore), Shaukat Mehmood Basra (NA-163, Bahawalnagar), Malik Umar Aslam (NA-87, Khushab), and Tahir Sadiq (NA-49, Attock).

However, one candidate, Mohammad Arif Abbasi, faces disqualification from taking part in the elections from PP-19.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa upheld the rejection of Mr Abbasi’s nomination papers.

Sanam Javaid, a PTI social media activist who has been behind bars for over eight months for alleged involvement in attacks on military installations on May 9 last year, will compete against two heavyweights — Maryam Nawaz Sharif in NA-119 and former National Assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq in NA-120.

The appeals of Ms Javaid and Mr Basra were heard by a different three-judge bench, headed by Justice Munib Akhtar and also comprising Justice Shahid Waheed and Irfan Saadat Khan.

Justice Akhtar observed that when parliament has liberalised the election process for candidates, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should facilitate people to contest the elections instead of making anomalies in election laws.

He wondered whether a candidate could be thrown out of the election arena simply because they couldn’t meet the returning officer’s convenience. “The court doesn’t want to see any hiccups by the commission or the application of electron microscope (on the candidature of the candidates).”

Accepting the appeals of Ms Javaid and Mr Basra, the bench set aside the decisions of lower forums, saying the nomination papers of these candidates would be deemed to be accepted.

In an order, the bench directed the ECP to include their names in the final list of the candidates contesting the upcoming polls.

Parvez Elahi’s appeal

The appeals of Mr Elahi, Malik Umar Aslam and Tahir Sadiq were heard by a third bench headed by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and also comprising Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel and Justice Athar Minallah.

Though Chaudhry Pervez Elahi was contesting elections from five different constituencies, his counsel, Faisal Siddiqui, requested that the court allow his client to contest the elections from PP-32 (Gujrat-VI).

During the hearing, Justice Minallah observed whether the laws governing the elections require the opening of different accounts if a candidate was contesting elections from 10 constituencies.

The election rules should be interpreted in such a way that the fundamental rights of people should not get affected, he emphasised, adding that it was the ECP’s job to create facilities for the people instead of creating an impression that measures were being taken only to discourage a particular political party.

The counsel also reminded the court that one of the grounds for the rejection of his client’s nomination papers was the non-declaration of a 10-marla plot when the plot was purchased on Nov 20, 2023. The cut-off date for declaring the asset bought last year was, however, June 30, 2024. When the plot was purchased, his client was inside the jail, the counsel emphasised.

The same bench also allowed Malik Umar Aslam to contest the elections from NA-87, saying election laws never barred an absconder from contesting elections.

Justice Minallah observed that contesting elections was a fundamental right of citizens, adding that it was for the electorates to decide the fate of the candidate during the elections and not the Election Commission.

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah also wondered how an individual could be deprived of his fundamental right to contest the elections.

The legitimacy of a democratic government hinged on its reflection of people’s will, and this was only possible through widespread and inclusive participation of candidates and voters in the election process, Justice Shah observed.

The bench also allowed Mr Sadiq to contest the elections from NA-49. His rejection of nomination papers was earlier upheld by the Lahore High Court.

Meanwhile, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa upheld the rejection of Mohammad Arif Abbasi’s nomination papers from the constituency PP-19 in Rawalpindi.

The nomination papers of Mr Abbasi, who remained PTI MPA during the last elections, were rejected by the returning officer on the grounds that two FIRs have been registered against him in the Waris Khan Police Station, Rawalpindi.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2024

To find your constituency and the location of your polling booth, SMS your NIC number (without spaces) to 8300. Once you know your constituency, you can find out about the contesting candidates by visiting the ECP website here and checking the province-wise break-up of Form 33s.



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