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The State Bank of Pakistan.—File Photo

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Thursday restrained Muhammad Ashraf Wathra from working as deputy governor of State Bank of Pakistan till Friday (today) and directed the bank’s counsel to submit a reply about the legality of the appointment.

Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah passed the order while hearing a petition seeking implementation of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution in order to stop ineligible candidates from contesting upcoming polls and challenging all appointments made by federal and provincial governments in violation of a ban imposed by Election Commission of Pakistan.

In his remarks, Justice Shah observed, “These are pre-election rigging techniques.” He also expressed wonder at the impugned appointment after constitutional directions issued by the ECP.

The SBP’s counsel argued that the bank had nothing to do with the appointment as former prime minister being lawful authority made the appointment. He sought time to file a reply on the matter and requested the court to adjourn hearing till Monday.

However, he withdrew his request when the judge remarked that the suspension of deputy governor would continue till next hearing.

Justice Shah observed that the court was holding a day-to-day hearing of the case as the questions raised in the petition were very important. The counsel also requested the court not to mention the suspension of the deputy governor in written order and assured that the respondent would stop working immediately. The judge accepted the request.

Contesting the petition to the extent of implementation of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution, the ECP counsel argued that almost 20 per cent scrutiny of nomination papers had been completed and the proceedings of the instant case could delay the election.

Rejecting the argument, Justice Shah observed, “There is no harm if scrutiny process gets delayed but no ineligible person should be allowed to sit in the assemblies.”

Petitioner’s counsel Azhar Siddique pointed out that the Federal Board of Revenue did not provide details of tax returns and defaulters to the election commission. He said the returning officers were not provided with any record/details to scrutinise the nomination papers of the candidates.

Justice Shah observed that all such details should have been available on the website of the ECP. He directed the ECP’s counsel to apprise about the directions/guidelines issued by the commission to the returning officers.

The judge remarked it appeared that the ECP had not sought assistance from FBR and other departments to determine the assets and tax record of the candidates. “How a returning officer would verify assets of a candidate if national tax number and tax details are not provided in the nomination paper,” the judge put a query.

The judge adjourned further hearing till Friday (today) with directions to the ECP’s counsel to submit reply about the directives issued by the commission for ensuring transparent election. He also directed the counsel to ensure presence of a senior responsible officer of the ECP.

Besides seeking direction for the ECP to conduct the upcoming general election justly, fairly and in accordance with law, the petitioner had also prayed to cancel all appointments made by the governments after a ban put by the ECP. The petitioner said all kinds of recruitments/appointments were banned except through federal and provincial public service commissions.