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Judiciary’s new blow to PPP: Raja Ashraf struck down

April 16, 2013

RAWALPINDI, April 15: It is now official. Neither of the two PPP prime ministers who served from 2008 to 2013 will be able to take part in the May elections.

This became evident on Monday as the judiciary struck its latest blow against the PPP when an appellate tribunal rejected former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf’s appeal against the rejection of his nomination papers by the returning officer.

The decision led to a division of opinion among the legal experts who were not agreed on the fairness of the judgment but there was a feeling that Mr Ashraf could still file an appeal against the tribunal’s judgment.

Mohammad Ramzan Chaudhry, a member of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), the apex body of the lawyers, told Dawn that the tribunal should not get involved in the “deeper appreciation of evidence”.

He said that the appellant Ashraf had been left with no option and that he had been deprived of his fundamental rights. “It would have been better to have allowed him to contest the election and the people of his constituency given the opportunity to either reject or elect him.”

Barrister Zafarullah Khan, on the other hand, said that the concept of qualification and disqualification was part of the constitution.

“The PPP government could have amended article 62 and 63 during the last five years,” he said.

However, he was of the opinion that Mr Ashraf could file an appeal in the Supreme Court against the tribunal’s judgment.

The apex court can also hold off the election process for his constituency till the finalisation of his appeal, he added.

Last week, the returning officer (RO) for NA-51, Khalid Arshad had rejected Mr Ashraf’s papers after Raja Irfan Aziz, a relative of Raja Javed Ikhlas, complained that the former prime minister had misused discretionary funds in his constituency.The objector alleged that Mr Ashraf was neither Sadiq nor Ameen and also produced before the tribunal an order of Islamabad High Court’s Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of March 28 in which the judge had advised the RO to examine “whether in light of the observations made in the judgment, Raja Pervez Ashraf can be believed as sagacious, righteous, honest, upright, trustworthy and Ameen.”

The order was passed after objections had been raised against Mr Ashraf on two issues. The first was based on a case in the IHC in which the court had cancelled the award of contracts for the development of roads in the constituency of Mr Ashraf.

However, while this allegation had been highlighted more in the media, Mr Ikhlas also claimed that Mr Ashraf had defaulted on payments to the Capital Development Authority (CDA) as his company M/s Fairwin Enterprises sold a cancelled plot of the CDA to several individuals illegally.

Mr Ashraf through his counsel, Senator Farooq H. Naek, challenged the decision of the RO before a two-member tribunal comprising Justice Rauf Ahmed Sheikh and Justice Mamoon Rasheed Sheikh of the Lahore High Court (LHC)’s Rawalpindi bench.

Mr Naek contended that the nomination papers of his client were wrongly rejected by the RO as he never misused discretionary powers to allocate development funds for his constituency.

He argued that Mr Ashraf had the legal and constitutional right to contest the general elections.

The tribunal after hearing the arguments of both sides directed the CDA to provide the record of the plot which was auctioned to Mr Ashraf which he then sold without paying the CDA.

According to the CDA, Mr Ashraf was one of the owners of M/s Fairwin Enterprises. The other directors of the firm were Shaukat Ali and Razia Begum.

The authority informed the tribunal that the possession of plot No68 measuring 533.33sq yards at the I&T Centre, Sector G-10, Islamabad, through an open auction, was handed over to Fairwin in 1988 at the rate of Rs5,150 per sq yard. The firm had paid only 25 per cent premium -- Rs686,663 -- to the CDA. The rest of the total cost of Rs2,746,649 was never paid.

The CDA on April 27, 1994 cancelled the allotment after Mr Ashraf’s firm failed to pay the remaining amount but despite this M/s Fairwin Enterprises sold the plot after sub-dividing it.

Last year, those who had purchased the land from the firm approached the CDA asking to be given permanent allotment but the authority refused to do so.

These owners then filed the applications in the Human Right’s Cell of the Supreme Court and the apex court referred the matter to the CDA in March 2013.

According to the complainants, over a dozen shops and 10 flats were constructed on the cancelled plot which were sold to 18 different buyers (who are the complainants in the SC) who were not told that the allotment of the plot had been cancelled and that there were illegalities involved in the construction of the building.

Others cleared and rejected: The tribunal also cleared PML-N candidate Mohammad Hanif Abbasi, allowing him to contest from NA-56 Rawalpindi.

The lawyer of Agha Ali Ahmed, who had objected to Mr Abbasi had alleged before the tribunal that Mr Abbasi did not provide his business details or those of his trips abroad to the RO. Mr Abbasi is contesting against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan from this constituency.

At the same time it rejected the nomination papers of Murtaza Satti, a candidate of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) from NA-50 Rawalpindi (Murree).

Mubbashir Abbasi had alleged before the tribunal that Mr Satti was holding the office of adviser to the finance division and was not qualified to contest elections. PML-N candidate Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was his opponent from this constituency.