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ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Thursday accepted the nomination papers of Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Water Resources Minister Faisal Vawda, former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani and other nominees for Senate polls while rejecting the nomination papers of Pervaiz Rashid from Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) on the grounds that he owed Punjab House Rs 9.5 million.

On the final day of the two-day scrutiny exercise, Returning Officers (ROs) at the ECP headquarters and Provincial Election Commissions (PECs) in all the four provinces scrutinised the nomination papers of the Senate aspirants.

At ECP headquarters in Islamabad, Special Secretary Zafar Iqbal Hussain, who is the RO for two Senate seats for Islamabad, announced the decision, reserved a day earlier, regarding Gillani’s nomination papers. The RO announced to accept his nomination papers. Earlier on Wednesday, Fareed Rehman, a Senate nominee and President Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Islamabad chapter, challenged Gillani’s nomination before RO, taking the plea that cases against Gillani were pending in National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Gillani was disqualified from Premiership by the Supreme Court in 2012. Rehman alleged that Gillani did not meet the criteria of being a member of Parliament laid down in Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. The RO declared in his written order that a period of five years had already elapsed since Gillani’s conviction by Supreme Court and cases against him were pending adjudication, and, in the absence of conviction, the candidate cannot be barred from contesting election.

Faisal Vawda was flanked by his supporters when he visited ECP to submit nomination papers for Senate polls. Harsh words were exchanged between Vawda’s supporters and security officials who stopped his supporters from entering the ECP. Vawda’s supporters chanted slogans in his favour. Additional police teams were called but the situation calmed down after Vawda’s supporters backed off. Vawda is facing serious cases in ECP and Islamabad High Court (IHC) regarding dual-nationality.

The nominations of Fareed Rehman and Hafeez Sheikh from PTI, and Tariq Fazal Chaudhry from PML-N were also accepted. All of them are contesting polls for Islamabad’s General seat. Rehman is expected to withdraw his nomination in favour of Hafeez by the time final nominations would be announced by ECP next week.

At PEC Lahore, Provincial Election Commissioner Ghulam Israr Khan, who is the RO for 11 Senate seats from Punjab, rejected the nomination papers of Pervaiz Rashid on the grounds that he did not pay outstanding dues of Rs 9.5 million to Punjab House. PTI’s Member Provincial Assembly (Punjab) Zainab Umair challenged Rashid’s nomination papers. Rashid insisted that he had cleared all the pending dues of Punjab House. However, the outgoing senator failed to provide any documentary proof to justify this claim, following which his nomination was rejected. Rashid termed the decision political victimisation and announced to challenge it in the Election Tribunal. Earlier on Wednesday, the RO also questioned the nomination of PML-N’s Mushahid Ullah Khan regarding pending dues of Punjab House, before the PML-N senator passed away the same night (Wednesday). Khan was seriously ill and was unable to visit PEC Lahore where the senator was represented by his son Dr Afnan Ullah Khan.

For the first time in its history, the ECP has established Digital Facilitation Centres at its headquarters and all the four PECs for coordination with Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), National Accountability Bureau (NAB), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) for obtaining relevant information regarding scrutiny of Senate nominees.

Overall, Senate received some 170 nominations for general polls including 10 from Islamabad, 29 from Punjab, 39 from Sindh, 51 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 41 from Balochistan.

Senate polls would be held on 12 seats each of KP and Balochistan, 11 seats each of Punjab and Sindh and two seats of Islamabad.

In each province, the elections would be held on seven General seats, two Women seats and two Technocrats/Ulema seats. In KP and Balochistan, elections would be held on one seat each for non-Muslims. Elections on the remaining two Non-Muslims seats; one each of Punjab and Sindh, are scheduled in 2024.

In 104-seat Senate, each province has 23 seats—14 General seats, four Women seats, four Technocrats/Ulema seats and one Non-Muslim seat. Erstwhile FATA has eight General seats and Islamabad has four seats—two General and two Women. Elections on half of the Senate seats are held every three years.

As many as 52 senators are retiring but elections would be held on 48 seats and four Senate seats would stand abolished with effect from upcoming Senate polls. Following FATA’s merger into KP, four erstwhile FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) seats would be abolished in upcoming elections following the retirement of the four senators while as many seats would be abolished in Senate elections scheduled in 2024 following the scheduled retirement of the remaining four senators elected on erstwhile FATA seats.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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