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ISLAMABAD, March 18: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday declared “void” the unopposed election of Dr Qayyum Soomro as senator on a reserved seat for technocrats from Sindh.

Three members of the ECP in their 13-page verdict accepted the plea of a Lahore-based lawyer, Tariq Ahmed, that Dr Soomro “does not bear the qualification so as to be defined as a technocrat”.

Besides this, the petitioner, who himself gave arguments before the ECP, had also questioned the haste shown by the ECP in completing the election process within one week.

He had submitted that two Senate seats had fallen vacant the same day on March 7, but the ECP fixed polling for the vacant seat from Balochistan on March 27 whereas the polling day for the election to fill the seat from Sindh had been fixed for March 14.

“The respondent is not possessive of the qualification of a technocrat as laid down by the law and as such was not eligible to contest election for a seat in the Senate reserved for the technocrat. His nomination papers were, therefore, liable to rejection at the time of scrutiny by the returning officer,” said the ECP order.

Dr Soomro, said to be a close aide of President Asif Ali Zardari, was declared elected as a senator unopposed on March 8 when no other candidate submitted nomination papers to contest the election against him on a technocrat seat that had fallen vacant after the resignation of former finance minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.

PPP stalwart Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan had represented Dr Soomro before the three-member ECP bench comprising retired justices Riaz Kayani, Shahzad Akbar Khan and Fazlur Rehman. The verdict was reserved on March 13.

The petitioner submitted that Dr Soomro in his tax returns had not mentioned any income from his profession or other services and the column in the nomination paper had been left blank. The only income Dr Soomro had mentioned in his papers was from property implying that he was not a “practicing doctor.” Moreover, as per declaration of his assets, Dr Soomro had shown 50 buffaloes valuing Rs7.5 million and 20 cows valuing Rs2 million, showing that he was “in fact running a dairy farm and not a practicing doctor.”

The petitioner had also pleaded that Dr Soomro had “concealed his assets because he had not shown any income from his dairy farm” by leaving the column of income from business as blank. Because of these discrepancies, the petitioner said, the nomination papers were “illegally accepted” by the returning officer through an “improper scrutiny”.

However, Aitzaz Ahsan raised objections that the petitioner “has no locus standi” since he possessed the domicile of Punjab.

He argued that Dr Soomro fell within the definition of a technocrat since he had passed the MBBS examination and become a doctor.

He admitted that Dr Soomro had not mentioned any income from his profession since he was not running any clinic.

The ECP in its order said that according to the Conduct of General Elections Order 2002, “technocrat means a person who is the holder of a degree requiring conclusion of at least 16 years of education recognised by the University Grants Commission (now HEC) or a recognised statutory body, as well as at least 20 years of experience, including a record of achievements at the national and international level”.

In its order, the ECP termed the announcement of different election schedules on two seats an “administrative lapse” and ordered an inquiry into it.