Taking notice of complaints that the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is using state resources to give its candidate a leg up in the PS-21 by-elections in Naushero Feroze, the Sindh High Court on Thursday barred the party’s leaders from interfering.
A divisional bench, headed by Chief Justice Mushir Alam, also issued notices to deputy attorney general and Sindh Advocate General, and directed them to respond to these allegations by November 28.
Zohaib Ali Shah, an independent candidate contesting the by-elections, had filed a petition on Wednesday, and nominated the chief election commissioner, regional election commissioner, PPP MNA and President Asif Ali Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur, provincial minister Abdul Haq Bhurt, PPP’s candidate Sarfaraz Hussain, IG Police Fayyaz Laghari, and other officials as respondents. The by-elections had been originally scheduled for November 17, but were later postponed to December 4.
The court order said, “the respondents No. 9 to 11 [Faryal Talpur, Ziaul Hasan Lanjhar and Sarfaraz Hussain] are restrained from interfering in conduct and holding of the election campaign and any other political activities of the petitioner”.
The PS-21 seat fell vacant after the Supreme Court disqualified PPP lawmaker Ahmed Ali Shah for holding dual citizenship. Ahmed Ali’s brother, PPP MNA Zafar Ali Shah, was disappointed when the ruling party did not allot the seat to his family. He criticised his party and claimed that it was using state machinery to rig the by-elections. The Shahs, who hail from Naushero Feroze, then decided to field Ahmed Ali’s son, Zohaib Ali, as an independent candidate. The PPP nominated Naushero Feroze’s former taluka nazim , Sarfaraz Shah. Around a dozen independent candidates are also reportedly in the running.
Upset over MNA Zafar Ali Shah’s stance, the PPP lodged a complaint against him with the Election Commission of Pakistan on November 5.
Nationalist parties have also jumped in the fray and thrown their support behind National Peoples Party candidate Abrar Shah. The nationalists are using the elections as a litmus test for the new local government ordinance. In his petition Zohaib Ali accused PPP leaders, as well as MNA Faryal Talpur, of using state resources to the advantage of its candidate. Naushero Feroze’s deputy commissioner and IG Police have shuffled the bureaucracy and appointed their own officers to rig the by-elections, alleged Zohain Ali. He added that these activities were brought to the notice of the provincial election commissioner on October 5, who assured him that all controversial transfers and appointments made by the deputy commissioner and police chief would be cancelled. However, nothing has been done in this regard so far, lamented Zohaib.
The petitioner also requested the court to organise the elections under the supervision of the army and the Frontier Constabulary.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2012.