National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser and Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak may be in hot waters as criminal proceedings can be initiated against them, which could lead to their disqualification under Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution over their alleged involvement in the scandalous video purportedly showing PTI MPAs as accepting bribes prior to the 2018 Senate elections.
The recently surfaced video pertaining to horse-trading could potentially implicate PTI stalwarts as the ousted lawmakers of the K-P assembly have claimed that Qaiser and Khattak – being ex-speaker of K-P assembly and ex-chief minister K-P – were present when the money was allegedly distributed among the lawmakers.
Both Qaiser and Khattak have denied the allegations; however, legal experts opined that criminal proceedings under the ECP Act, 2017, as well disqualification under Article 62, 63 of the Constitution – the sections about Sadiq and Ameen – could be initiated against them.
“The issue can lead to disqualification under Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution,” eminent lawyer Raja Rizwan Abbasi said. “If it is proved that horse-trading took place then it is misconduct by virtue of the Elections Act, 2017,” Abbasi said, adding that a full-fledged trial can be conducted by a district and sessions court on the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)’s complaint.
While mentioning Sections 167 (corrupt practices), 168 (bribery), 169 (personation) and 170 (undue influence) of the 2017 ECP Act, Abbasi also referred to different other sections between 171 and 189 of the Act that deal with the issue.
“Since federal ministers Asad Umar and Shibli Faraz revealed and admitted about the video scandal in a press conference, it is now federal government’s mandate to send a reference to ECP,” former secretary of the ECP, Kanwar Dilshad, said.
“The federal government has owned the video; it should now send a reference to the ECP and provide evidence against the accused persons as the scandal attracts section 167 to 170 of the ECP,” the former secretary said.
Dilshad said that ECP can’t take a notice of the incident on its own and things would move on if the government sends the reference. “There is no hurdle in sending the reference to the ECP but if the government doesn’t, it would be considered that everything was just for media trial,” he said, while appreciating the government’s move to expose the “corrupt” lawmakers.
Another eminent lawyer, who wished not to be named, also said that criminal proceedings can be initiated and “high court could be approached for declaring them as disqualified for being members of parliament”.
Commenting on the different statements about the availability of the video with the PTI since 2018, the lawyer said that hiding evidence also constitutes an offence under section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender) of the Pakistan Penal Code; thus FIR can be lodged. “Government owns the video,” he said, adding that all dishonest persons could be prosecuted and disqualified.
“One needs to be morally bankrupt to believe in the statements of these criminals,” said Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry. The minister said that the National Assembly speaker and the defence minister have “already clarified”, adding that the place the ousted lawmakers had mentioned as the Speaker House is not the Speaker House. “Habitual liars [are] just trying to create story,” Chaudhry said.
Days after Qaiser issued notices to three lawmakers – PPP’s Syed Naveed Qamar, PML-N’s Ch Hamid Hameed and PTI’s Attaullah – on charges of misconduct in February 4 session, the revelations made by several ousted lawmakers of the K-P assembly have put Qaiser and Khattak in a difficult situation.
The National Assembly is likely to witness fiery proceedings on both these issues – on issuing notice to three lawmakers on charges of violating the decorum of the house and on Qaiser – being the Speaker K-P assembly – facing serious allegations of misconduct in the next session expected on February 15.
Following the allegations, Qasier on Wednesday tweeted that neither the place shown in the “horse-trading” video was the Speaker House, Peshawar, nor he has to do anything with the matter. In the tweet, Qaiser said that PM Imran Khan had informed him in 2018 about the buy & sell of votes, adding that the entire party had decided to take action against the PTI MPAs, involved in the matter. “Statements like these are only an attempt to deflect attention from the actual issue,” he said.
Speaking to a private TV channel, PTI MPA Ubaidullah Mayar said on Tuesday that he and the other lawmakers from the party had received Rs10m as bribe to sell their votes, adding that he had taken the money on the “directives of the then chief minister of K-P, Pervaiz Khattak”.
Mayar said that the PTI-led provincial government had “paid Rs10 million to all MPAs”; the incident took place at the Speaker House and it was the “provincial government which paid money to the MPAs and then made a video.”
Defence Minister Khattak also denied on Wednesday his involvement in fixing 2018 Senate elections, saying: “Our 17 votes were sold; we expelled them from the party and Ubaidullah Mayar says that we gave him money.” Khattak added: “Neither I ever asked [him], nor will I ever do.”
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