Former premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf made a surprise re-entry into the electoral race after a full bench of the Lahore High Court gave the provisional green light for his nomination papers from the NA 51 constituency in Rawalpindi.
The full bench was hearing a writ petition filed by Ashraf against the rejection of his nomination papers by an election tribunal earlier in the day. In its directives, the bench overruled an earlier decision of the returning officer (RO) and an election tribunal which had rejected Ashraf’s nomination during the scrutiny of papers.
Issuing a notice to the Election Commission of Pakistan, the LHC directed the commission to include the name of the former prime minister in the list of valid candidates. The bench observed that the interim relief given to the petitioner will be subject to the final decision on this petition.
On April 7, the RO for NA 51 had rejected the nomination papers of Ashraf. Subsequently, an election tribunal upheld the RO’s decision and dismissed an appeal filed by Ashraf on April 15, in light of objections raised by a former union nazim of Gujjar Khan.
A group of lawyers including Farooq H Naek, Sardar Latif Khan Khosa, Muhammad Ahsan Bhoon and president of LHC bar association Abid Saqi represented the former prime minister before the bench comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Syed Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi.
Naek argued that the decision given by the RO and the tribunal were based upon surmises and contrary to the law laid down in Article 62 (1) (f) of the Constitution. He said the nomination papers of the petitioner were rejected in view of a Supreme Court judgment in the rental power project (RPPs) case and a declaration issued by a single bench of Islamabad High Court.
Contesting the objection of being involved in the RPPs scandal, Naek argued that the apex court had directed the National Accountability Bureau to take action against those responsible for signing and executing the contracts given to the RPPs. However, neither a reference had been filed by the NAB against the petitioner nor had any inquiry been initiated.
Naek said that unless convicted by a court of law, the petitioner could not be disqualified in view of provision (1) (h) of Article 63 of the Constitution.
He added that in the case between NLC and PWD, there was litigation between both the institutions and the petitioner was not party to the proceedings. Rejection of nomination papers on the grounds of allegations was tantamount to the usurpation of the petitioner’s fundamental rights, he argued.
Despite the counsel’s plea to set aside the orders of the RO and tribunal, the bench only suspended the impugned orders and conditionally allowed the former PM to contest the polls, adjourning the hearing till April 22.
Two ex-PMs kickstart PPP campaign together
Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) election campaign gathered steam on Thursday after former prime ministers, Yousaf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, appeared together for the first time at a press conference in Zardari House.
Projecting an image of unanimity, the former premiers said that the May 11 elections must be held on time and called on the election commission and interim government to ensure transparency.
In a reference to the rejection of his nomination papers, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf reiterated that he had not been convicted by a court thus far. Ashraf said that it was clear that the next government would be a coalition government again and only the PPP knows how to run such alliances in a lasting manner.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2013.