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ISLAMABAD: Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Monday adjourned till October 11, a crucial case, pending for over seven months, seeking disqualification of Leader of the Opposition in Senate Yousaf Raza Gilani, petitioned by the ruling party - Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

A two-member ECP bench comprising of Shah Muhammad Jatoi and Nisar Durrani heard the case against the Pakistan Peoples Party stalwart and former prime minister.

During the proceedings, the defendant side cited Section 9 (3) of Elections Act 2017 to contend that Gillani could not be disqualified from his Senate membership as more than 60 days had already passed since he became a senator.

Section 9 (3) of Elections Act 2017 reads, "Notwithstanding the publication of the name of a returned candidate under Section 98, the commission may exercise the powers conferred on it -before the expiration of sixty days after such publication; and, where the commission does not finally dispose of a case within the said period, the election of the returned candidate shall be deemed to have become final, subject to the decision of an election tribunal on an election petition, if any."

Eyebrows were raised when Gillani, the joint candidate of opposition's Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), defeated the then Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Islamabad's General seat in March 3 Senate election.

Gillani secured 169 votes while Shaikh got 164 votes and seven votes were rejected out of total 340 votes cast. PTI-led ruling coalition had 180 seats compared to 160 seats of opposition in 342-seat National Assembly.

A night before the Senate elections, a video of Gillani's son was widely circulated in which he was seen allegedly buying votes in favour of his father.

The PTI lawmakers including State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib moved ECP to halt the notification of Gillani's election as a senator. The ECP rejected this request. Later, it accepted the PTI's petition to hear the case against Gillani, in connection with the video controversy, that has since been pending.

In his hard-hitting address to the nation after Senate polls, Prime Minister Imran Khan lashed out at ECP in the backdrop of alleged foul play on Senate's general seat from Islamabad in March 3 elections.

The PM questioned the ECP why it had not printed barcode on 1,500 ballot papers to ensure fair polls. "You (ECP) have harmed the morality of country...this country was to become an example for others. What message you (ECP) have given to our youth that how much money was used in the election and how our politics has been corrupted," he remarked. He said the ECP could have conducted fair elections as it had all the required resources to do so.

The Supreme Court had directed the ECP, in its decision regarding presidential reference on open ballot in Senate elections, to use technology in the Senate polls to ensure transparency. However, the ECP decided to use technology in 'future Senate elections,' citing shortage of time.

In chairman Senate election held March 12, government candidate Sadiq Sanjrani defeated Gillani.

Sanjrani grabbed 48 votes compared to Gillani's 42 votes. Eight votes were rejected out of total 98 votes that were cast in 100-seat Senate whose present strength is 99.

Meanwhile, ECP, Monday, adjourned for 'indefinite period' the case against another PPP bigwig Faryal Talpur, also petitioned by PTI, seeking her disqualification from Sindh Assembly membership for allegedly concealing her assets.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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