LARKANA, Aug 30: The returning officer for NA-207 (Larkana-IV) on Friday rejected the nomination papers of PPP chairperson and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, giving the reason that she had been convicted in three references of the National Accountability Bureau

Ayaz Soomro, president, District Bar Association, appeared on behalf of Ms Bhutto and prayed that when the forms of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had been accepted, the nomination papers of Ms Bhutto should also be accepted. But overrluing his arguments, returning officer Akhlaque Hussain Larik, the additional sessions judge, Ratodero, rejected the forms of Ms Bhutto.

When contacted, the returning officer told Dawn that Ms Bhutto had been convicted in three NAB references and, therefore, she stood disqualified under Article 63(P) as amended by the Legal Framework Order 2002. He said further that similarly she was disqualified under Section 8-D, sub-section 2-clause (N) of ECO No: 7 of 2002.

Documents pertaining to the NAB references were available with the returning officer and those were 41/2001, 23/2000 and 26/2000. The references had been decided on May 21, 2002; July 7, 2002; and June 9, 2001, respectively, he said. About the NAB documents available with him, the returning officer said that those were with him as Ms Bhutto had filed a petition (No B-147/2002) wherein she had challenged the vires of Section 31 of NAB ordinance.

Former deputy speaker of the National Assembly Dr (Mrs) Ashraf Abbasi, Ms Bhutto’s political secretary Dr Safdar Abbasi and former Sindh minister for local bodies Haji Munawar Ali Abbasi were present when the decision rejecting the papers of Ms Bhutto came.

They later led a procession that converged on the press club here after marching through the main streets of the town.

They told newsmen they would follow the legal course. Ayaz Soomro, advocate for Ms Bhutto, told Dawn that an appeal against the decision would be filed shortly.

He called it “double standard,” saying Mr Sharif’s forms were accepted though he too was a convict. Ms Bhutto had been informed in London of the matter, he added.

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