KARACHI: The counsels for the Sindh and federal governments argued about the lawfulness of Waheeda Shah’s disqualification before Justice Munib Akhtar and Justic Aftab Ahmed Gorar of the Sindh High Court on Tuesday.
Sindh government’s counsel supported Shah, who was a candidate of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) while the counsel for federal government defended the decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan for disqualifying the candidate who had contested by-elections from PS-53. They had been called by the bench as parties to help explain the matter at hand.
Additional Advocate General (AAG) of Sindh, Adnan Karim Memon, based his argument on a minute technicality in the law. He said that if the returning officer or the election commission is authorized to take immediate action against a candidate then there was no need to hold summary proceedings and that too three days after the elections which were held on February 25.
He stated that the election commission had no authority to disqualify Shah and declare the by-elections null and void.
Sindh AAG also annoyed the judges by evading their questions. The bench remarked later, “We expect higher quality of assistance from you,” and reminded him that he was standing before a high court bench, not before a judicial magistrate.
To this, Yusuf Leghari, former advocate general of Sindh, who was representing Aamir Zardari, Shah’s rival candidate, reiterated the election commission’s argument that the returning officer had the authority to take action if anyone interrupted, hindered or affected the process of election in any manner whatsoever. He rubbished the arguments put forward by Shah’s lawyer, Haider Imam Rizvi, who had argued that after the elections are over and the polling officer signs the “Form 16”, which is the unofficial result or the votes secured by the candidate, the elections become a closed chapter. Leghari said that a returning officer could exercise his authority within 45 days after the elections. He also referred to the observations made by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The apex court had taken a suo motu notice of the entire episode and had ordered that all the police officials who were present at the time of alleged incident be suspended because they did nothing. Waheeda Shah had slapped a polling staff and the entire episode was broadcasted on live television.
The SHC, argued Leghari, cannot disregard the observations made by the apex court. While talking about proof, he commented that since the footage was aired live by television channels and there were pictures published in newspapers, the presence of a Presiding Officer (PO) and the summary proceedings were useless.
Leghari also pointed out that according to Shah’s own statement, she had asked for forgiveness from the abused polling staff but in the election matter the offence was not compoundable.
He refuted the argument, that only the election commissioner has the authority to disqualify a candidate, which had been made by Shah’s lawyer. Leghari responded that the three-member election committee was equal to an “Election Tribunal” and had the power to disqualify a candidate.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2012.
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