This time, former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf will not be contesting elections. The PPP will need to find another candidate for his seat in Gujjar Khan. Mr Ashraf’s appeal against his disqualification was not upheld by a Rawalpindi election tribunal, which ruled that he did not meet the criterion laid out under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. Its grounds were Mr Ashraf’s award of a contract to the National Logistics Cell, his involvement in the Rental Power Projects scandal and a letter written to the Supreme Court deemed contemptuous by it. This list has been enough to disqualify Mr Ashraf.
The verdict will only raise more questions about the two controversial constitutional articles. The fact is that in none of the cases mentioned was Mr Ashraf convicted. Legal experts have argued only a conviction should lead to the disqualification of a person under the clauses concerned. Ashraf has, of course, not been found guilty in any of the cases against him.
The whole matter will raise new doubts about the manner in which the electoral scrutiny process has taken place and specifically about the use of Articles 62 and 63. It would appear that no uniform standard has been applied, leading to a great many doubts and controversies over everything that has transpired over the last few weeks. Many would say that if Ashraf has been disqualified, others should have met the same fate as well.
The inconsistency in the tribunal decisions will leave a stain over the electoral process. It is one that cannot be easily wiped away. For the future, the whole matter will need to be thought out more carefully and means found to set more even standards. At the moment, there are too many accusations of unfair play and this will not help the elections proceed in as smooth a manner as we had hoped would happen. It is, of course, vital that the entire procedure for elections be carefully worked out and consistently followed. This does not appear to have happened and as a result, many doubts will surround the methods used and the decisions taken by the tribunals set up to determine the issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2013.
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