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PESHAWAR, April 13: An election appellate tribunal on Saturday allowed former provincial minister Syed Aqil Shah and four other candidates in graduation degree-related cases to contest the May 11 polls.

The tribunal comprising Justice Mian Fasihul Mulk, Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel and Justice Irshad Qaiser accepted appeals filed by Syed Aqil Shah, former MPA Ateefur Rehman and provincial chief of PML-N women wing Tahira Bukhari.

It also dismissed appeals against acceptance of nomination papers of former MNA Akhunzada Chattan and ex-MPA Faisal Zaman amid charges that they possess forged degrees.

The nomination papers of Aqil Shah were rejected by the returning officer on the ground that he was recently convicted for possessing a fake graduation degree and was sentenced to one-year imprisonment and Rs3,000 fine.

Aamir Jawed and Abdul Lateef Afridi, lawyers for Aqil Shah, a candidate of Awami National Party, said the Peshawar High Court had suspended his client’s conviction and therefore, that order of the trial court was invalid for the time being.

They said under Article 63 (1)(h) of the Constitution, a person could be disqualified if he was convicted for an offence involving moral turpitude and was sentenced to not less than two years of imprisonment, so the said article was not applicable to the appellant.

The lawyers said under Article 62 (f), provided that a person was qualified to contest elections if he/she was honest, sagacious and righteous unless to the contrary declared by any court.

They added that there was no declaration by any court that the appellant was not honest, sagacious and righteous.

Qazi Jawad Ahsanullah, lawyer for rival candidate Kifayatullah Khan, said the declaration regarding possession of a fake degree by the appellant was already in the field as the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and subsequently the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) declared that the degree submitted by him in the 2008 elections was fake.

He said the Supreme Court in a related judgment clearly pronounced that a person submitting forged or fake degree could not be termed as righteous and honest.

Barrister Waqar Ali, appearing in two appeals filed by Ateefur Rehman, said his client’s nomination papers were rejected by the returning officers for NA-2 and PK-5 constituencies on the ground that he had given a false statement that he was a graduate, whereas his examination and the subsequent results were cancelled by the University of Peshawar on ground of impersonation.

He said in his declaration, his client had clearly said the question about his graduation was pending with PHC for decision.

Qazi Mohammad Anwar, lawyer for Tahira Bukhari, said his client’s papers filed for the National Assembly seats reserved for women were rejected on flimsy grounds by the returning officer that in previous elections, she had produced a forged graduation degree.

He added that an unidentified person, who never appeared before the returning officer, had leveled the said allegation and that despite the fact that there was no condition of graduation for a candidate, his client’s papers were rejected.

The tribunal rejected two appeals against acceptance of nomination papers of Akhunzada Chattan.

The appellants had said ECP and HEC had declared that he had become an MNA during previous elections from Bajaur Agency on basis of a fake degree, so his papers should be rejected.

The lawyer for Mr Chattan said in his present nomination papers, his client had mentioned his qualification as intermediate and had not made any misstatement.

He added that there was now no condition of graduation for a candidate.

Similarly, the tribunal dismissed four appeals challenging acceptance of nomination papers of former MPA and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Faisal Zaman.

The appellants had said Faisal Zaman had got elected as MPA in 2002 on basis of a degree purportedly issued to him by Ahmadu Bello University of Nigeria. They alleged that in 2006, the said university had informed HEC that it had not issued any degree to Faisal Zaman.

The tribunal heard around 80 appeals in which 40 were accepted and the candidates were allowed to contest polls.

Several of these nomination papers were rejected by the relevant returning officers mostly on some technical grounds related to the filing of nomination papers.

Former MNA from NA-35, Malakand Mohammad Khan was allowed to contest elections.

His papers were rejected by the returning officer on the ground that he was not familiar with Islamic teachings.

The returning officer had observed that the candidate’s knowledge of Islamic injunctions was even less that that of a student of primary class and therefore, he was not qualified to contest polls.

His lawyer said on basis of subjective views of the returning officer, a candidate could not be disqualified.

The tribunal accepted appeal of former MPA of PPP Dr Zakirullah for PK-97, Lower Dir.

His papers were rejected on the ground that he had not mentioned his visit to UAE in his nomination papers.

His lawyer Malik Ajmal said it was an inadvertent error as his client had mentioned other visits in the form. He asked why he would conceal that visit when he had already submitted his passport to the returning officer.

Also, the tribunal accepted appeal of former bureaucrat and PTI candidate Gulzar Khan for NA-4, Peshawar.

His papers were rejected on the ground that he was a government servant and two years had not passed since he relinquished his last government assignment as the Provincial Public Service Commission chairman.

His lawyer Mian Muhibullah Kakakhel said Gulzar Khan remained the chairman until May 6, 2011, and at the time when polling would take place on May 11. the condition of two years would have been passed and thus, he was entitled to contest elections.