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ISLAMABAD: In a significant development, the Supreme Court has allowed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders - Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Sanam Javed Khan, Shaukat Basra, Major Tahir Sadiq (retired) and Umer Aslam to contest general elections, which will be held on February 8.

Two different benches of the apex court, on Friday, declared the orders of the Election Tribunals and the High Court, void, and permitted incarcerated PTI President Pervaiz Elahi from PP-32 of Gujrat, Shaukat Basra from NA-163, Umer Aslam from NA-87 Khushab, Sanam Javed from NA-119, NA-120, and PP-150, Tahir Sadiq from NA-49 Attock to contest general elections 2024.

The court has directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to allot the election symbols and include their names and the symbols in the ballot papers. The ECP’s counsel had earlier submitted that the process for printing of ballot papers is almost complete.

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, heard the appeals of Pervaiz Elahi, Umer Aslam, and Tahir Sadiq.

During the proceeding, Justice Minallah highlighted that it was the court’s responsibility to interpret the Election Act in a way that did not deprive the people of choosing a representative of their choice. He said taking part in the elections is the fundamental right of every citizen, adding let the people and not the Election Commission decide who should and who should not contest the elections. He said the lawmakers are accountable to the people of their constituencies, and not the Election Commission.

Faisal Siddiqui, representing Pervaiz Elahi, said still he had not received the order of the returning officer. The objection to nomination papers is that for every constituency there should be a separate bank account for expenses incurring for elections. He informed Pervaiz Elahi is contesting elections from five constituencies. Justice Minallah questioned where it is written that for each constituency there should be a separate bank account.

Faisal Siddiqui said another objection is that Pervaiz Elahi had concealed his 10-marla plot in Phalia that was purchased on 20th November 2023. He submitted that the facts are he never bought this plot, as he had been in jail for many months.

Justice Minallah said that returning officer’s job is to facilitate the candidates, but it seems they are creating hurdles for the candidates. “Unfortunately, this has been happening with one political party,” he added.

Barrister Ali Zafar, appearing on behalf of Umer Aslam, submitted his client was on pre-arrest bail; one of his constitutional applications to contest the elections was rejected while the other was approved.

Upon that, Justice Mansoor questioned which law prevents a fugitive/absconder from contesting elections? The ECP’s counsel said that a fugitive/absconder is guilty of violating the law, so he cannot contest the elections.

Justice Mansoor remarked that contesting elections is a fundamental right. It is a punishment to deprive a person of his fundamental right by preventing him from taking part in elections. How can one be prevented from participating in elections? Let the people of Pakistan elect their representatives, he observed. He questioned which clause of Articles 17, 62 and 63 deprives a fugitive of the fundamental right to vote.

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Muneeb Akhtar heard the appeals of Sanam Javed and Shaukat Basra. The objections on Sanam’s nomination papers were that she had a joint bank account with her husband, and second that the jail superintendent had not signed on the documents, third that the signatures on her papers were fake.

Sanam’s lawyer, Shahzeb Rasool, informed that an affidavit dated December 22, 2023, was provided in the presence of an oath commissioner on December 21. The oath commissioner confirmed Sanam’s signature. However, the returning officer rejected the nomination papers, stating that no visitors had met Sanam in prison on December 22.

Basra’s lawyer informed the court that a returning officer had rejected a single bank account, asserting that the deadline for accepting nomination papers had elapsed. Justice Saadat pointed out that the election schedule did not specify 3pm as the cutoff time for submitting nomination papers.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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