Poll victory of Islamabad candidates to remain suspended till ECP decision

Published February 22, 2024
(L to R): PTI candidates Amir Mughal, Mohammad Shoaib Shaheen and Mohammad Ali Bukhari. — File photos via Facebook and X
(L to R): PTI candidates Amir Mughal, Mohammad Shoaib Shaheen and Mohammad Ali Bukhari. — File photos via Facebook and X

• IHC asks election watchdog to first address complaints in NA-46, NA-47, and NA-48
• ECP lawyer claims petitioners ‘misled’ court, asserts transparency in results

ISLAMABAD: In an apparent win-win scenario for the PML-N and PTI election contestants from three constituencies of the federal capital, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday kept the victory notification of three returned candidates of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) suspended and linked the result with the Election commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) nod.

IHC division bench comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb and Justice Arbab Mohammad Tahir disposed of the petitions of unsuccessful candidates of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) from Islamabad, saying since the election tribunal for Islamabad had been notified, the court could not hear the matter in its writ jurisdiction.

The bench also referred the matter to the ECP with a direction to decide the complaints against the election results of NA-46, NA-47 and NA-48 of Islamabad and then issue the notification of returned candidates under the law.

After the Feb 8 polls, the ECP had declared Anjum Aqeel Khan, Tariq Fazal Chaudhry and Raja Khurram Nawaz Khan as returned candidates of the National Assembly from these constituencies, respectively.

PTI candidates Amir Mughal, Mohammad Shoaib Shaheen, and Mohammad Ali Bukhari lost these seats to the PML-N men, claiming they had been defeated due to alleged rigging. After the notification of the victory of the PML-N nominee was issued, the PTI candidates challenged the ECP’s notification stating that it was issued in violation of the status quo order issued by the commission while hearing their complaints against the results.

A single-member bench in the high court had disposed of the petitions with a direction to the ECP to proceed in accordance with the law. The petitioners then filed intra-court appeals before the division bench. The bench suspended the ECP’s notification of declaring Anjum Aqeel, Tariq Fazal, and Khurram Nawaz returned candidates on Feb 19.

‘Petitioners misled court’

During the hearing of the case on Wednesday, ECP’s counsel Sikandar Bashir Mohmand argued that the petitioners had misled the court that the notification of the returned candidates was issued bypassing the law. He claimed that the ECP completed all the codal formalities before the issuance of the notification and produced the documents to substantiate his assertions.

Justice Aurangzeb inquired that the court was concerned as to why the returned candidates were notified while the status quo order was in the field.

The ECP’s counsel replied that the status quo order was conditional as it stated that the results would be withheld if not consolidated already. The lawyer said Shoaib Shaheen was asking the returning officers to reverse the already-compiled results. The bench noted that the ECP would not have issued the notification while the complaints against the results were pending.

“[If] the ECP may allow the complaints, then what would be the status of the notification,” the bench remarked. Mr Mohmand conceded that the notification would be issued after the decision on the complaints. He, however, requested the court not to set aside the notification and that the matter might be remanded to the ECP for a recourse.

He argued that even though the ECP believed that the intra-court appeal was not maintainable after the tribunal was notified, he was still assisting the court to its satisfaction with the “transparency” of the process which led to the issuance of the notification. The bench then disposed of the appeals, observing that the order that suspended the notification of the returned candidates would remain in the field till the decision on the complaints by the ECP.

NA-117 and NA-163

Meanwhile, the same bench referred a matter related to the complaint of PTI-backed candidate Shaukat Basra to the Election Commission of Pakistan with a direction for its expeditious disposal. Mr Basra claimed that the ECP notified Ijazul Haq as a returned candidate from NA-163 Bahawalnagar, whereas, as per the Form-45 Mr Haq was in the third position.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq also remanded the dispute related to the election results of NA-117 in Lahore to the ECP. Ali Ijaz Buttar challenged the result of NA-117 where the ECP declared the Istehkam Pakistan Party (IPP) nominee Aleem Khan as a returned candidate from this constituency.

Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2024

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