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ECP order in Waheeda Shah case upheld

KARACHI, Nov 4: Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Fakhrudin G. Ebrahim has upheld the disqualification of Waheeda Shah, a candidate who had slapped an election official during polling on Feb 25 in the by-election of PS-53 constituency of Sindh Assembly, from being elected as a member of an assembly for two years.

In the judgment reserved in the case, the CEC disqualified Waheeda Shah from being elected as an assembly member for two years due to her conviction under Section 86(3)(b) of the Representation of People’s Act, 1976.

According to the CEC verdict, Ms Shah had been found guilty of slapping Presiding Officer Habiba Memon and others during the polling of by-elections at the polling station No 16 on Feb 25 and had therefore been found guilty of interfering in the polling process.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had earlier taken serious notice of the incident and by a majority decision, thereafter directed the returning officer to take cognisance of the offence under the relevant section of the Representation of the People’s Act, 1976.

The returning officer, vide decision dated March 5, 2012, had convicted Waheeda Shah of committing an offence under Section 86(3)(b)    of the act and imposed a fine of Rs1,000 on her.

In pursuance thereof, on March 7, 2012, the ECP declared the poll of PS-53 void under Section 103-AA of the Act and disqualified Ms Shah from being elected as a member of an assembly for two years under Section 100 of the Act by separate majority decisions.

Subsequently, the Sindh High Court maintained her conviction but quashed her disqualification on the ground that the power to disqualify under Section 100 of the Act rested exclusively with the Chief Election Commissioner and not with the Election Commission of Pakistan.

In pursuance of the above ruling, a notice was issued on behalf of the CEC to Waheeda Shah for a hearing and the matter was finally argued at length on Oct 24, and the judgment was reserved.

The CEC observed that the candidate has undermined the entire election process and faith of the country in democracy.

Furthermore, elections and their results would become farcical if candidates were given a free hand to coerce, threaten or abuse election officials and therefore, such conduct could not be condoned, according to the judgment.