CHAKWAL: The disqualification of former member of the National Assembly and known columnist Ayaz Amir’s nomination papers on Wednesday virtually created ripples in the country.
The decision not only sent shock waves among many people but also caused doubts over the ongoing scrutiny of the candidates by the returning officers, which many believed was the violation of the constitution.
Mr Amir submitted his nomination papers to contest election from NA-60 though his PML-N has yet to decide about the ticket in this constituency.
In his application to returning officer Chaudhry Anwar Ahmad Khan, complainant Babar Saleem accused Mr Amir of advocating open availability of wine, criticising the blasphemy laws, Hudood ordinance, objectives resolution and the ideology of Pakistan.
He also presented a Fatwa issued by a cleric, Mufti Jamilur Rahman, in which the latter declared that due to his thinking and deeds Mr Amir did not deserve to contest the election as a Muslim.
Commenting on Mr Amir’s disqualification, Barrister Zafarullah Khan, a Supreme Court lawyer, said nobody could be disqualified on the basis of Article 62, 63 until he/she was proven guilty of violating these clauses in a court of law.
The decision is against the constitution, said Mr Khan, adding Mr Amir would definitely be cleared in the appeal.
Mohammad Ramazan Chaudhry, another Supreme Court lawyer and a member of the bar council, pointed fingers at Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry for creating the whole mess.
He said the CJP by writing a letter to the ROs, stressing them to strictly implement Article 62, 63, had committed a violation of the constitution as no judge, senior or junior, could be directed.
“It’s so unfortunate that candidates are being questioned by the ROs in such a manner as if they had committed a crime,” said Mr Chaudhry.
He added that the entire exercise of ROs asking overloaded religious questions from the candidates was making a mockery of the election process.
Mr Amir’s nomination papers have been rejected by the district Chakwal returning officer for writing a column, which, according to the officer, flouted the ideology of Pakistan.
Mr Amir in his column “An unusual man” dated November 30, 2012, recalled his meeting with the late Ardeshir Cowasjee, another known English columnist.
Talking to Dawn, Mr Amir said he himself was in a state of disbelief as the RO had given his decision merely on the basis of an Urdu translation of his English column which made no relevance to the charges on the basis of which he had rejected his papers.
“I was told that in my column I have endorsed liquour drinking.
I really don’t know from where the RO has got this impression, as I have not written anything like this,” Mr Amir explained.
He said he was going into an appeal against the decision with the hope of a positive decision from the higher court.
Soon after the RO gave his decision against Mr Amir, it went viral and generated huge response to the development in the social media.
“Ayaz is being disqualified for a ‘thought’.
It's Orwellian,” tweeted journalist Omar Warraich.
“Orwellian” is an adjective describing the situation, idea or societal condition that George Orwell, an English novelist, identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free and open society.
Known TV anchorperson, Talat Hussain, on his twitter account wrote, “Rejecting papers on the basis of opinion itself is a punishable act.”
Salman Akram Raja, a Supreme Court lawyer, tweeted: “The truth that we must face is: are we a fascist mob ready to lynch those who don't agree with us or can we embrace diversity?
Nadeem F. Paracha, another columnist, remarked: “Ayaz Aamir ganda, Ahmad Ludhianvi acha. Nazria Pakistan ki jeet.”
He added that using abstract and ill-defined Articles 62 & 63 to disqualify contestants was a blatant pre-poll rigging.
Mr Amir wasn’t the only politician whose nomination papers have been rejected. Faisal Saleh Hayat and Syeda Abida Hussain, two prominent politicians from the Jhang district, also met the same fate on Wednesday.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), in response to the rejection of the nomination papers of the known politicians, on Wednesday issued a clarification.
“It is hereby clarified that the returning officers are members of Pakistan's judiciary.
They are carrying out their duties as returning officers independently.
The ECP does not instruct or direct the returning officers how to decide the fate of nomination forms.
The ECP only provides data, as received, from the FBR, NAB, SBP and other governmental authorities to the returning officers,” said the statement.
The decisions of the returning officers to accept or reject nomination papers are subject to the right of appeal before the election tribunals comprising judges of the high courts, it added.